Illinois Public Media News
The Champaign School District is sending out tentative layoff notices to 149 teachers and support staff on Tuesday. That's 46 more than last year, thanks to uncertainties in state finances.
The Unit Four School Board approved the reduction-in- force, or RIF notices Monday night on a 5 to 1 vote. School board member Greg Novak said he voted "no", because too many questions were left unanswered --- although he wouldn't say what the questions were.
RIF notices are a spring tradition for Illinois school districts, with most employees hired back in the fall, when state funding has been finalized.
But due to the state budget crisis, Unit Four spokeswoman Beth Shepperd says they can't predict how much funding will come out of Springfield this year.
"What we're doing is trying to be very reactive to what the state is doing to us", says Shepperd. "Currently, they owe us $1.7 million in payments, that we do not know when or if we will receive. We don't expect it this fiscal year."
Unit Four School Board Vice President Susan Grey says voting on the RIF notices was more difficult than usual, due to the state funding uncertainties.
"Of course we are very concerned", says Grey. "These are people, these are their jobs, their livelihood. And these decisions are not made or taken lightly. I think our administration has done a good job of trying to pull together changes that will have the least amount of effect on the district as a whole, and the students."
The increase in RIF notices is sharpest for support staff --- the 53 RIF notices going out to them is two-and-a-half times greater than last year.
Shepperd says Early Childhood and Reading Enrichment programs are among the hardest hit by the RIF notices. But she says the impact will be felt in other programs, because tenured teachers may take positions elsewhere in the district, forcing the layoff of non-tenured teachers.
Earlier this month, the Urbana School Board approved RIF notices for 139 employees --- also an increase from last year.
A Cook County judge has lifted a temporary restraining order on a never-enforced Illinois law requiring that a girl's guardians be notified before she has an abortion, but that doesn't mean the law goes into effect right away.
Judge Daniel Riley on Monday also approved a stay, or grace period, to let appeals be worked through in the case.
The law requires doctors to notify the guardians of a girl 17 or younger 48 hours before the girl gets an abortion.
Earlier this month, Riley heard arguments from the Illinois attorney general's office and the American Civil Liberties Union on the 1995 Parental Notice of Abortion Act.
ACLU of Illinois Executive Director Colleen Connell says the group is exploring legal options, including filing an appeal.
Just over 600 employees on the University of Illinois' Urbana campus want to take advantage of voluntary separation programs offered early this year.
Friday is the deadline for applicants looking to leave their jobs or retire through the program. The incentive was offered earlier this year as a means for the U of I to cut costs amid Illinois' bleak financial picture. Spokeswoman Robin Kaler says human resources staff had no idea how many applicants they'd get, but she says the mere volume means employees won't hear word on a decision until the first week of May. Kaler says departments will soon have their work cut out for them when reviewing names. "Would allowing 'Person X' to separate save you money?,' says Kaler. "And obviously, if a unit has more than one person who's signed up, they would look at the whole picture. It might be that 'boy, we'd need to replace a piece of this person, but if that person also left, we could replace two people with one, or something like that." Kaler says the 613 applicants included about 350 civil service workers, and 180 academic professionals. Meanwhile, about 90 tenured faculty members, and another 16 adjunct professors and lecturers took advantage of a voluntary retirement incentive. About 30 applicants weren't eligible for the program, with about 20 more names to review. Human Resources on the Urbana campus offered the Campus Separation Incentive programs to anyone who had been on campus for at least four consecutive years. The retirement incentive applies to staff who meet State University Retirement System eligibility requirements. Eligible employees approved for either incentive would receive a lump sum payment of half their annual salary, with a maximum payment of 75-thousand dollars.
30 to 50 cadets at Rantoul's Lincoln's Challenge program could face expulsion over a fight in the academy's dining hall Sunday night.
The National Guard-sponsored academy is for students who dropped out of high school but want to rebuild their lives. National Guard public affairs director Major Brad Leighton says the fight apparently grew out of a dispute over a basketball game earlier yesterday. He says today staff are trying to sort out how the fight developed into an incident that brought about 20 Rantoul police officers to the hall, looking at surveillance tapes of the cafeteria.
No one was reported seriously injured.
Leighton says Lincoln's Challenge works on a military basis and has a zero-tolerance policy against fighting, so cadets involved may be kicked out of the program. Academy director Peter Thomas says the school is working as normal today.
The FBI in Illinois says weekend raids in Ohio and Indiana are part of an ongoing investigation led by the FBI in Michigan.
Raids were conducted in all three states and at least three people were arrested, two in Ohio and one in Illinois.
Federal warrants were sealed, but one federal law enforcement official says some of those arrested face gun charges. That official also says they're pursuing other suspects.
A militia leader in Michigan said the target of at least one of the raids was a Christian militia group.
George Ponce, who works at a pizzeria next door to a home raided in Hammond, Ind., said he and a few co-workers stepped outside for a break Saturday night and saw a swarm of law enforcement officers.
Ponce said officers yelled "get back inside'' and told them the house was being swept for bombs. He estimates agents took more than two dozen guns from the house.
A Chicago man accused of terrorism is scheduled to be in court Monday, but some of the public proceeding may be held in private.
Prosecuctors say the case against Tahawwur Rana includes classified information.
Information the government would like to use against him, but information the government would not like to trot out in a public courtroom.
That's why much of Monday's s hearing may be closed.
The judge, prosecutors and defense attorneys will likely discuss how they'll handle evidence that falls under the "Classified Information Procedures Act," or CIPA.
The act allows prosecutors to protect certain information by using only partial evidence, a part of a recording or a document.
Prosecutors would present the evidence to the judge who then decides how much of it can be seen by defense attorneys.
Rana has been charged with supporting another Chicagoan - David Headley - as he helped plan the 2008 Mumbai terror attack that killed more than a hundred and sixty people.
The Illinois State women's basketball team defeated Illinois 53 to 51Sunday, in a close game that sends the Lady Redbirds to the Women's NIT Final Four.
Senior Jenna Smith scored with 1:43 left in the game to give Illinois a 51-50 lead over ISU. But the Redbirds' Katie Broadway shot a three-pointer with 17.5 seconds left to regain a lead that turned out to be the final score. Two Illinois shots at the basket in the final seconds --- the first by sophomore Lydia McCulley and the rebound by Smith --- were unsuccessful.
The game was close for most of the first half, with ISU pulling ahead to a 28-19 lead with three minutes in the half. Illinois started the second half with a 9-2 run to take a 33-32 lead at the 15:53 mark. After that, the lead went back and forth the two teams, with neither one leading by more than four, up through the Redbirds' two-point victory margin.
Freshman Karisma Penn led Illinois with 13 points, while Smith followed up with 12 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks in her final game for the Illini.
Nicolle Lewis was the Redbirds' top scorer, with 14 points and nine rebounds.
The game was played at Redbird Arena in Normal, in front of 4,459. ISU will host California Thursday, April 1st, in the Women's NIT semifinals. Illinois finishes its season with a 19-15 record, including their first-ever quarterfinal appearance at the WNIT..
Sheila Simon has won the Democratic nomination for Illinois lieutenant governor.
Simon had the backing of Gov. Pat Quinn, who praised her public service and also said it was important to have a downstate resident on the Democratic ticket.
The Democratic State Central Committee chose Simon Saturday to fill a vacancy created when the original nominee dropped out amid a scandal over his legal problems.
She defeated Rep. Art Turner, who had finished second in the February primary election.
Turner is black and some Democratic leaders had predicted that rejecting him would sour black voters on the Democratic ticket.
Meanwhile, Republican lieutenant governor nominee Jason Plummer is welcoming Simon to the race
Plummer said Saturday that he hopes for a thoughtful campaign that sticks to the issues -- especially Simon's support for raising income taxes.
The 27-year-old candidate says the Democratic State Central Committee's decision to choose Simon over Turner was an example of arrogance.
Plummer says Gov. Pat Quinn hand-picked his running mate and ignored the voters.
Pink Floyd The Wall'' in its only surviving 70 millimeter print, and "Apocalypse Now Redux'' --- a longer 2001 re-edit of Francis Ford Cuppola's 1979 original --- are among the 13 movies on the schedule next month at Roger Ebert's annual film festival.
Organizers announced the lineup Friday for this year's Roger Ebert's Film Festival. The festival will be April 21-25 at the Virginia Theater in Champaign, with related events at the Illini Union at the University of Illinois. The Chicago Sun-Times film critic is a native of Urbana and a U of I graduate.
Other movies on the schedule include the 2009 Oscar Winner "Departures'' and a 2007 film shot in Rwanda with local actors called "Munyurangabo.''
This year's silent film is 1929's "Man With a Movie Camera", an avant-garde Russian film. As in past years, the three-person Alloy Orchestra will accompany the showing.
Roger Ebert's wife, Chaz, will once again act as emcee for the festival. Roger Ebert is unable to speak due to cancer surgery, but plans to play a role using a computer synthesis of his voice.
According to its organizers, Roger Ebert's Film Festival features films that the film critic feels have been overlooked, either by critics, distributors or audiences, or because they come from an overlooked genre or format.Besides the film showings, guests connected with many of the films will appear on the Virginia Theater stage for informal Q-and-A sessions after the screenings. The festival is presented by the University of Illinois College of Media, of which Illinois Public Media is a part.
Festival passes for the festival are sold out. Tickets for individual films go on sale April 5, through the Virginia Theater box office.
Illinois Democratic Party leaders meet Saturday morning in Springfield to pick a nominee for lieutenant governor.
Governor Pat Quinn announced on Friday he wanted Sheila Simon to fill the ballot spot left vacant by Scott Lee Cohen, who won the primary and then withdrew.
Simon is the daughter of the late U-S Senator Paul Simon, himself a one-term lieutenant governor.
Quinn doesn't get a vote when party officials pick the nominee...but he hopes they listen to his preference.
"There's no sure thing in life, okay?", says Quinn. "You're not sure until they vote"
And some powerful members of the Democratic State Central Committee say they will not be supporting Simon - instead voting for state Representative Art Turner, who finished second in the primary.
Turner's supporters say there could be a voter backlash if he doesn't end up the nominee, but Quinn says the longtime lawmaker has no claim to the nomination.
"The way primaries work is, the one who finishes first is the winner", sayd Quinn. "Everyone else goes home, you know? When it's over it's over."
It's ALL expected to be over on Saturday, when the 19 men and 19 women on the committee cast their votes.
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