News Around Illinois - February 25, 2020

 
Reginald Hardwick/Illinois Newsroom

Union Vows To Fill Decatur School Board Meeting 

DECATUR - The teaching assistants union at Decatur Public Schools is calling on members show their solidarity by packing Tuesday night's  school board meeting. The meeting comes one day before the union and school district hold a bargaining session with a federal mediator. Teaching assistants have been without a contract at Decatur Public Schools since last summer. The Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants held a strike in October, but ended it after the school district withdrew health insurance benefits. Contract negotiations have stalled over the district’s new health insurance proposal which the union calls unaffordable. The Decatur School Board meets Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Keil Administration Building. The bargaining session between the district and its teaching assistants unions is set for Wednesday at 4:00 p.m. - Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

Illinois Prison Education Program Receives Grant

URBANA - Northwestern University’s Prison Education Program has received a one million dollar grant from a charitable foundation to expand to prisons outside of the Chicago area. Jennifer Lackey is the director of the program, which offers credit-bearing courses to inmates at Stateville prison. Illinois Newsroom reporting shows that few people in Illinois prisons have access to post-secondary education. Lackey says they’ll use the grant to expand to Logan Correctional Center, a women’s prison near Springfield. She also hopes state officials will provide more resources to the Illinois Department of Corrections to educate prisoners. - Lee V. Gaines, Illinois Newsroom

Lawmaker Wants Harsher Punishments For Harming Domesticated Animals​

SPRINGFIELD - An Illinois lawmaker says people who injure or kill domesticated animals should face a harsher punishment. State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield) wants to raise the penalty for aggravated animal cruelty. He says the idea is to deter would-be abusers from committing the crime. “If people don’t appreciate the fact that animals are so valuable in the lives of so many, they should appreciate the fact that this is a telltale sign that a person is capable of doing horrendous things to humans," said McClure. The bill would make injuring or killing a pet a Class two felony – meaning those convicted would face 3-7 years in state prison and fines of up to $25-thousand. The crime currently carries a sentence of 1-3 years. - Mike Smith, NPR Illinois

Metal Scrapper Finds Body Of Man In Springfield Garage

SPRINGFIELD — Police in Springfield say a man searching for scrap metal discovered the decomposed body of another man in a garage. The body was reported around 4:30 a.m. Sunday. An autopsy is planned. Springfield Lt. Christopher Russell says a man found the body after noticing that a door to a garage near an alley was open. The nearby house is vacant. - Associated Press

Actor Jussie Smollett Pleads Not Guilty To Restored Charges

CHICAGO — Former “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett has plead not guilty to restored charges that accuse him of staging a racist, homophobic attack against himself last year and falsely reporting it to Chicago police. His lawyer, Tina Glandian, entered the not guilty pleas on his behalf to six counts of felony disorderly conduct. She also told Judge James B. Linn that she's asked the Illinois Supreme Court to halt the case. Glandian told reporters that the revived prosecution is “an ordeal” for Smollett. Smollett has repeatedly denied police allegations that he staged the attack to get attention and further his career. His next court date is March 18. - Associated Press

Story source: Illinois Newsroom