Illinois Public Media News

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 24, 2010

Illinois Fails In Bid For ‘Race to the Top’ Education Funds

Illinois has struck out in its attempt to get federal school-reform money.

The state was a finalist twice for "Race to the Top'' grants and hoped to get $400 million this time. But the U.S. Education Department named nine states and the District of Columbia as recipients in the final round of stimulus program funding.

Illinois House education leader Roger Eddy says the state's bid was hurt by its long history of local school control and concerns about its ability to continue the programs after federal money dried up. But the Hutsonville Republican says the State Board of Education worked hard to revise its application after Illinois missed out on the first round of federal money in March.

The top education leader in Illinois is diappointed the state got shut out on those funds. But state schools Superintendent Christopher Koch says the reform agenda will proceed. Reforms paid for with the federal money must be continued with state funds. Koch says he doesn't know if Illinois' budget problems played a role in the state's loss. He says there is already some federal money for changes and Illinois can gain from successes in the states that did get money.

Categories: Education, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 24, 2010

Auditor Referendum Removed from Champaign County Ballot

A referendum to make the Champaign County auditor an appointed, rather than elected, position will not be on the November ballot this year.

Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden says it was his duty as the county Election Authority to remove the referendum from the ballot, because the Champaign County Board voted to put it on the ballot more than a year in advance of the election.

"I've never had to do it before --- hope it never happens again", says Shelden. "But this ballot question won't be on the November ballot, because it was passed by the County Board, more than a year prior to the election. And the state statute is very clear that they cannot do that."

Shelden acted, following a complaint filed last week by County Democratic Chair Al Klein, who also said the question was flawed because it didn't list a date for the auditor to switch from elected to appointed, if voters approved the measure. Shelden said it might have been possible to work around that problem, but not the county board's failure to wait for the one-year pre-election window.

The referendum's co-sponsor on the County Board, Democrat Steve Beckett, says he plans to bring it up again for inclusion on the April 2011 ballot. Beckett says he accepts responsibility for the error. Meanwhile, Republican County Board member Greg Knott accuses Klein and Democratic County Auditor Tony Fabri of sitting on knowledge of the problem until it was too late for the County Board to fix it.

"It's clear they were playing games", says Knott. "It was a way to not have the focus on Mr. Fabri and his performance and the need for that office in this election cycle."

The auditor's referendum had targeted Fabri, with Republicans and some Democrats on the County Board accusing him of poor attendance at his office, following a News-Gazette report. Fabri says an elected auditor is vital for good county government, and says his critics should run their own candidate for auditor, if they're unhappy with him. Fabri says he had heard rumors that there were statutory problems with the way the referendum was put on the ballot, but wasn't focused on the matter, and thought the County Board would take care of any problems.

Klein says he learned of the statutory problems with the referendum a few weeks before he wrote to the County Clerk about it, but waited in order to check the matter out with legal experts. He also says waiting until after the deadline for submitting items for the ballot is the usual time to post a challenge.

Categories: Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 24, 2010

New Contract Now in Place in Mahomet Seymour

The Mahomet Seymour school board has made official a tentative contract that's gotten unanimous approval from employees. The board cast a 7-0 vote last night to ratify the deal -- the co-president of the Mahomet Seymour Education Association said that earlier in the day, all of its voting members voted in favor. The vote follows a two day strike that disrupted the first days of school last week. The contract only runs for one year, as opposed to the two-year deal that the school board had initially insisted on - it includes a 2.6 percent pay raise for teachers, while teacher's aides and support staff will get 3.5 percent. Both sides will now have to open negotiations again next summer.

Categories: Education, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 23, 2010

Champaign County Auditor Referendum May Not Qualify for Ballot

Republicans unhappy with Champaign County Auditor Tony Fabri led a County Board vote last summer to put a referendum on the November ballot to make the county auditor's post appointed, instead of elected. Now, the chair of the Champaign County Democratic Party says the referendum should be disqualified.

The charges from Al Klein focus on two provisions of state law. Klein says the Champaign County Board failed to specify a date for when the referendum would become effective, leaving a blank spot in the referendum language. And he says the county board acted more than a year before the November 2010 election --- too early, according to state statute.

If he hadn't found the legal problems, Klein says he'd be campaigning against the referendum. Klein and current auditor Tony Fabri are both Democrats, but Klein argues it's just a bad idea for the auditor to be hired by county officials.

"What good is it to have an auditor, if the auditor is employed by the people he's auditing?", asks Klein. "Think of Arthur Andersen and Enron. There's one of the best firms in the country, with the highest white-hat reputation. And look what to them, because they could not afford to say no to the people who were paying their tab."

Klein wrote Champaign County Clerk Mark Shelden about the matter last week --- Shelden is in charge of elections in the county. The letter was written long after the deadline for the county board to do anything to revise the referendum to address Klein's charges. Klein says he chose the normal period for challenging ballot items.

Shelden plans to comment on the issue on Tuesday, but had written County Board Chair Pius Weibel about the question of the effective start date last December.

For his part, Weibel says it was implicit in county board discussion of the referendum last August that it would take effect --- if passed --- at the end of Fabri's term in 2012. But he says he didn't know about a state law requiring that referenda must be approved for the ballot less than 12 months before an election.

Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Reitz declined to comment on the matter Monday.

Categories: Government, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 23, 2010

New Center in Rantoul Serves as a Resource for Migrants

A new daycare and clinic recently opened for the season in Rantoul. It caters mostly to children of migrant workers, but it's open to anyone whose immediate family works in agriculture. The Multicultural Community Center is the largest of its kind in Illinois. As Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports, the staff tries to make the transition of migrating easier for the children of migrant workers.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Biography, Community

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 22, 2010

New Law Requires More Information from Pet Shops and Shelters

A bill that requires pet stores and animal shelters to disclose the health history a dog or cat has been signed into law.

Under the new law, pet shops, animal shelters and control facilities will also have to disclose other information. That includes the name and address of the breeder, retail price, adoption fees and vaccinations, among other things.

Currently, those details are only disclosed if it's requested and often times that means a consumer won't get the information until after a final sale.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill on Sunday. He says the information will help protect consumers before they buy a pet.

The law goes into effect next year.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 22, 2010

School to Resume in Mahomet, but Strike Animosity May Linger

Teachers and students in the Mahomet Seymour district will put the start of their school year back in order.

A two-day strike that ended Friday postponed the first shortened day of the year. Now, students will return to class on Monday, which is the first shortened day of class. The school board and the teachers' union rank-and-file will vote Monday night on the one year tentative contract that put a short but bitter work stoppage to an end.

Mahomet Seymour Superintendent Keith Oates said it will not take much to get back on schedule - in fact, the district is using two allotted emergency days in the school calendar to account for the strike. But Oates said fixing the animosity in the community after the strike will be tougher.

"Obviously human nature is going to demand that it's a little bit different for a little while," Oates said. "And I think we all know that when an organization goes through something such as a strike it's going to take a period of time, depending on different folks, to work its way back to normal, I'm sure."

Oates said he plans to keep a regular schedule of visiting schools in the district and checking in on teachers. Joan Jordan head, of the Mahomet Seymour Education Association, said negotiations were contentious but -- for her - that is over, and she expects the strike to be a distant memory once kids return to school.

Categories: Education, Politics

WILL - Illinois Public Media News - August 20, 2010

Raising Awareness About Devastating Flood in Pakistan

The devastation caused by the flooding in Pakistan is clear - 20 million people affected. That is more than the combined populations of Illinois and Indiana. Reports put the dead at 1,600. Asma Faiz is a doctoral candidate at the University of Illinois. Faiz recently returned from Islamabad, and she spoke to Illinois Public Media's Celeste Quinn about the importance of raising awareness and support for the country.

(Photo by Sean Powers/WILL)

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Categories: Environment, Health, Politics

AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 20, 2010

Feathers Ruffled by Quinn’s Stance Against Building the Lower Manhattan Mosque

Gov. Pat Quinn is sticking by his opposition to building a mosque near ground zero in New York despite criticism from a local immigrant rights group.

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights on Friday called on candidates and elected officials to "stop injecting hate in the debate.''

Quinn said Friday he honors the patriotism of Muslim citizens but believes a group should rethink building a Muslim center and mosque near the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Quinn says there should be a "zone of solemnity'' around the site. He says any place of worship that takes away from the solemnity of ground zero should rethink their location.

He called his position "a matter of conscience.


AP - Illinois Public Media News - August 20, 2010

Mahomet Seymour Strike Ends with a Tentative Contract Agreement

Teachers in the Mahomet Seymour schools will be back in their classrooms on Monday as a two-day strike ends with a tentative contract agreement.

The chief negotiator for the Mahomet Seymour Education Association, Linda Meachum, said school board negotiators offered a compromise Friday afternoon that led to the breakthrough. Meachum said teachers will receive 2.6% pay raise this school year. She said support staff and teacher's aides will get 3.5%.

But the two sides will have to negotiate again next year because the tentative contract is only for one year. Meachum said she believes that's important for both the district and the union.

"At least this way we know what we can live with for one year, and the board can begin to strategically plan for the future," Meachum said shortly after negotiations wrapped up. "We know that some (federal) stimulus money is coming in to the district, and we'll have a better idea of what our fund balance is going to be." Meachum also noted that the state's now-delayed payment schedule to schools might be clearer in a year.

Terry Greene, the president of the Mahomet Seymour school board, says the district had lobbied against a two-year contract but let go of that requirement as union bargainers compromised.

"They agreed to a one-year deal that we thought was responsible and fiscally fair," Greene said. "We want our kids back in school. Usually if you make a deal in which both sides are are a little unhappy it's probably the right deal, and that's just about what happened." But Greene still contends that the deal could have been sealed much earlier in the bargaining process.

Meachum said a ratification vote for the union's 260 members is set for Monday afternoon, after the first day back in class. The school board will cast its vote later that evening.

Categories: Economics, Education, Politics

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