Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Prosecutors seek DNA in NIU murder case - Courier News

 

new information was outlined in a court document that seeks a DNA sample from 34-year-old William Curl to compare with substances found on shoes that authorities suspect he may have worn when he allegedly killed the NIU freshman last month.

Read more about the case by clicking on the following:  Prosecutors seek DNA in NIU murder case - Courier News

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Elgin U-46 to negotiate six contracts next year - DailyHerald.com

 

Leaders in some suburban school districts believe one way around that uncertainty is to tie increases in salaries and benefits for unionized employees to the rate of inflation, which is also the rate by which school districts’ property tax income usually increases every year.

U-46 officials wouldn’t say whether they will seek to tie contracts to inflation, as they did in some of the agreements that expire in 2011.

As part of the one-year extension, teachers agreed to freeze their salaries this year with the exception of teachers who acquired enough training or experience to advance to a higher salary bracket.

U-46 to negotiate six contracts next year - DailyHerald.com

Editorial: The responsibility of credible reporting and the public trust | The Rock River Times

The following links by the The Rock River Times may be of interest for anyone having questions regarding  Dr. Patrick Hardy’s letter or the FOIA legal action by the Rock River Times.

To view the press release about the case distributed statewide by the IPA, click here.

Following are links to TRRT’s coverage of its attempts to obtain the letter:

District 205 battles to keep unflattering letter private, Oct. 6-12, 2010, issue of TRRT

District 205 challenges Public Access Council’s ruling, continues battle to keep unflattering letter from public, Oct. 13-19, 2010, issue of TRRT

District 205 yet to release unflattering letter, Oct. 20-26, 2010, issue of TTRT

Board of Education says little about battle over unflattering letter, Nov. 3-9, 2010, issue of TRRT

Editorial: Public must take stand in battle for unflattering letter, Nov. 3-9, 2010, issue of TRRT

IPA, TRRT file suit against District 205, LaVonne Sheffield, posted Nov. 3 under Happening Now

Preliminary hearing in IPA, TRRT suit against District 205 Feb. 2, Nov. 10-16, 2010, issue of TRRT

Taxpayers demand accountability from school district, Nov. 10-16, 2010, issue of TRRT

Sheffield responds to ‘Rumor Tuesday’ at Nov. 9 Board of Education meeting, posted Nov. 10 under Happening Now

A note about the Hardy letter, posted Nov. 22 under Happening Now

Editorial: The responsibility of credible reporting and the public trust, Nov. 24-30, 2010,

District 205 releases Hardy, Sheffield letters, posted Nov. 24 under Happening Now

From the Nov. 24-30, 2010 issue

Click on the following to read the editorial:  Editorial: The responsibility of credible reporting and the public trust | The Rock River Times

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Rockford School District releases Hardy letter - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

 

Getting it right is more important than getting it first,” said Linda Grist Cunningham, executive editor Wednesday evening. “There are nine, single-spaced, typewritten pages from Hardy and a page and a half from Sheffield. It’s easy to simply post and run. We don’t do it that way. When I am confident that we’ve done the right things, we’ll post.”
Cunningham said she assumed other media outlets would consider posting the letters now that the district had released them.

Click on the following for more details:  Rockford School District releases Hardy letter - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Rockford public school sports teams locked out of their gyms during holiday vacation

 

Auburn, Guilford, Jefferson and East are scrambling to find places to practice this weekend after District 205 sent out a memo last week that all school buildings in the district would be shuttered over Thanksgiving weekend. Another memo a week or so early had already informed the four high schools that they would lose their practice facilities during the final week of Christmas break. A school district official said closing all schools could save an estimated $10,000 a day, but they don’t need to keep all the schools open. Just the four high schools.

Matt Trowbridge » Rockford public school sports teams locked out of their gyms during holiday vacation

District 205 releases Hardy, Sheffield letters | The Rock River Times

… “Superintendent LaVonne M. Sheffield decided to make the letter public after being informed by Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP that the Public Access Counselor (PAC) for the Illinois Attorney General has issued a verbal opinion that Dr. Hardy’s letter does not fall within the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] exemption regarding disciplinary documents, a distinction not previously addressed.”

District 205 asserted that it stands by its position that releasing the letter without Hardy’s permission would breach Hardy’s rights to confidentiality.

TRRT issued the following statement Nov. 24: “The Rock River Times is pleased to see District 205 finally follow the letter of the law and release Dr. Patrick Hardy’s letter to the public. The district’s refusal to comply with the Freedom of Information Act—even after twice being ordered to do so by the Illinois Attorney General’s Public Access Counselor—set an extremely poor example for the students of the district that suggested administrators were somehow above the law. Additionally, the district’s refusal to release the letter sent an unfortunate message to the community that suggested District 205 administrators—including members of the Board of Education—were answerable to no one. Indeed, District 205 is the largest taxing body in the City of Rockford, and taxpayers have a right to hold those who oversee the district accountable for their actions. The release of this letter is central to the media’s role in assisting taxpayers with fulfilling that right.

“We also find it unfortunate that District 205 clearly employed a strategy of releasing the letter just prior to the Thanksgiving holiday with the hope it would be lost amid the hustle and bustle of the season. The letter easily could have been released at the Nov. 23 Board of Education meeting—or even sooner.

“With regard to our lawsuit against Rockford Public School District 205, we will continue with our efforts to ensure the public’s right to know is protected under the fullest extent of the law. A preliminary hearing in the case is scheduled for Feb. 2, 2011, in Room 426 of the Winnebago County Courthouse.”

Click on the following for more details:  District 205 releases Hardy, Sheffield letters | The Rock River Times

Dr. Patrick Hardy’s response to Rockford Superintendent’s letter is release

At approximately 5:00 PM today the Rockford Public Schools decided to comply with the Freedom of Information request and release the letters regarding Dr. Hardy’s separation from the district.  WIFR—Channel 23[http://www.wifr.com/news/headlines/Rockford_Public_Schools_Releases_Hardy_Letter_110488659.html]  has apparently released the two documents in question.  These letters were held by various news media for some time with Channel 23 just now releasing their old copies because of Rockford School District’s decision to release the information.

The two page document below is the Superintendent’s letter of June 17 and Dr. Hardy’s June 19, nine page rebuttal follows.  The reference for these documents is:  http://media.graytvinc.com/documents/PatrickHardyLetter.pdf andhttp://media.graytvinc.com/documents/SperationofEmployment.pdf   Click on the photocopies to enlarge.

Dr. Sheffield’s letter

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Dr. Hardy’s Rebuttal

UPDATE:  10:00 PM --The Rock River Times (TRRT) has just submitted a clear copy of Dr. Hardy’s letter.  I am substituting their copies for the ones from Channel 23.  The reference for (TRRT) is http://rockrivertimes.com/2010/11/24/district-205-releases-hardy-letter/

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District 205 releases Hardy letter | The Rock River Times

[The Rock River Times]  Editor’s note: This is a breaking story. More details will be posted as they become available. The following was posted at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 24.

District 205 releases Hardy letter | The Rock River Times

Editorial: Public must take stand in battle for unflattering letter | The Rock River Times

Here is an additional fact which the public should be aware of.  Perhaps the newspaper should have FOIAed each of the members of the Board of Education.

The letter, written in response to District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s June 17, 2010, letter titled “Separation of Employment,” was sent to Sheffield and all Board of Education members. Kelley confirmed receiving the letter and said the allegations in the letter were investigated, and he considers the matter closed.

Other members of the Board of Education to confirm receiving the letter were Harmon Mitchell, Alice Saudargas and Jeanne Westholder. Jude Makulec declined to comment, and Bob Evans could not be reached.

Considering the letter was sent to elected public officials, the public should have a right to read the letter to determine for themselves whether their elected officials are making good decisions and providing effective representation.

Click on the following to read the entire editorial:  Editorial: Public must take stand in battle for unflattering letter | The Rock River Times

Editor’s Note » Patrick Hardy letter: Day 2—Rockford Register Star

people behind the leak are using Patrick Hardy’s letter to get at Superintendent Lavonne Sheffield. In the process, they likely are damaging Hardy, the community and the superintendent. It feels all too much like guerrilla warfare.

Click on the following to read all of Ms. Cunnigham’s comments:  Editor’s Note » Patrick Hardy letter: Day 2

Editorial: The responsibility of credible reporting and the public trust: The Dr. Hardy Letter| The Rock River Times

WNTA’s Ken DeCoster said Nov. 22 on air he did not receive permission from Dr. Patrick Hardy to make the letter public. Rockford Public School District 205 is currently facing litigation for not making the letter public to The Rock River Times (TRRT). Yet, DeCoster and WNTA could wait no longer, and posted the letter online after verifying Dr. Hardy had written the letter in their possession. How thorough that verification was, we do not know.

Click on the following for more of the details:  Editorial: The responsibility of credible reporting and the public trust | The Rock River Times

No doubt everyone is guessing who got the letter and released it to WNTA.  My thought is that its a member of the Board of Education.  Such a person would have access and would have little or no legal recourse for their actions  What is your guess?

A note about the Hardy letter Regarding District 205 | The Rock River Times

Earlier today (Monday, Nov. 22), a local radio station posted a copy of what is alleged to be the unflattering letter written by former Rockford Auburn High School Principal and current Freeport High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy. The letter is in response  to Rockford Public School District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M.  Sheffield’s letter to Hardy titled “Separation of Employment,” dated June 17, 2010.

To publish the letter prior to obtaining it through the proper channels would be highly irresponsible, and there would be no guarantee the letter was 100 percent authentic. TRRT will continue in its efforts to obtain the letter in a responsible manner, and will share it with readers as soon as it is obtained

Click on the following for more details from the Assistant Editor of The Rock River TImes:  A note about the Hardy letter | The Rock River Times

The following is taken from:  http://www.educationunited.net/id53.html

If you try the pdf file shown in red below it will not open; it must be gone.

WNTA Releases the Dr. Patrick Hardy Letter! –http://www.wnta.com

Patrick Hardy Letter
Ken Decoster
11/22/2010
WNTA has obtained a copy of former Auburn High School Principal Patrick Hardy's "rebuttal letter" to Superintendent LaVonne Sheffield and the School Board.
Hardy accuses Superintendent Sheffield of "falsely asserting" that Hardy refused to finish the 2009-2010 academic year as Principal of Auburn High School in a professional manner and "placed himself on paid leave" . Hardy ultimately left District 205 to be Principal at Freeport High School. Before his stint as Auburn Principal, Patrick Hardy served last fall as District 205 Chief Academic Officer under LaVonne Sheffield.
Hardy's letter states he became "increasingly uncomfortable" in that role for several reasons including what Hardy described as Sheffield's "excessive drinking" at education conferences in Arizona and Chicago last year.
Hardy's letter asks the school board for an apology and that his letter be placed in his permanent file. School Board President David Kelley says the things Hardy alleges happened at the conferences in Arizona and Chicago did not happen. Kelley says District 205 lawyer Lori Hoadley investigated the matter and Kelley says there's nothing to substantiate Hardy's allegations.
A copy of Patrick Hardy's letter to the School Board and Superintendent Sheffield is available at:

http://mmrfd.com/christina/PatrickHardyLetter.pdf

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Changes to Belvidere Schools

Only Perry and Kishwaukee are making  annual yearly progress (according to No Child Left Behind) and the District is considering closing one of them.  Very Interesting?

No increase in overall numbers and we need more classrooms.  Are the portable classrooms being counted at Central Middle School for the “200 over capacity”?  In the past, Mr. Houselog never included them in his calculation.

Should the public be looking for a back-door referendum again if none of “Try On” Scenarios work? 

Click here to find out more!

BELVIDERE (WIFR) -- Last week the School Start Time Committee presented the Belvidere school board with ten different options to help reduce overcrowding, save money and improve students' ability to learn.

Some of those options include closing Kishwaukee Elementary School, creating a charter school and shifting grade structures to different schools.

Belvidere Schools Superintendent Michael Houselog says Central Middle School specifically, is 200 kids over capacity so something needs to be done.

"We have times of the school day where those students in that school aren't even able to have a classroom to be in; they just have to spend time waiting for a classroom," explains Houselog.

The School Start Time Committee will discuss the options in more detail at the end of the month. Houselog says he hopes to have them narrowed down within the next couple of months.

Click on the following to view the actual Channel 23,   Thursday newscast:  Changes to Belvidere Schools

Below are the ten options as presented by the Superintendent to the Board on 11-15-2010.

try on option p1

try on option p2

Monday, November 22, 2010

Caledonia School cancels Tuesday classes

Posted November 22, 2010
Caledonia Staff and Students:

The tornado that touched down this afternoon in the Village of Caledonia caused no damage to the school.  However, Boone County Emergency Services has requested that the district cancel classes for Tuesday, November 23 for the students at Caledonia Elementary School due to safety concerns in the surrounding village.

The Belvidere Family YMCA will offer child care for Caledonia students from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday.  The cost is $25 per child and you are asked to bring a lunch and a swimsuit.

For more information regarding child care services, please contact the YMCA at 815-547-5307.

Staff members at Caledonia Elementary are to report to Belvidere North High School at their regular staring times on Tuesday.

Thank you.

November 24 through 26:  Thanksgiving Holiday (no school)

Click on the following to check for any update:  http://www.district100.net/

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Highland Community College raises tax levy 4.7 percent - Freeport, IL - The Journal-Standard

The biggest challenge has been the realization that the EAV is actually decreasing in some areas,” she said, adding that property values as a whole are expected to increase by about 1.5 percent.

Highland Community College raises tax levy 4.7 percent - Freeport, IL - The Journal-Standard

District 100 Job Opening

Head Secretary

Organization: Belvidere Community Unit School District #100

Type: Secretarial/Clerical : Secretary - 10 Months

Posted: 11/19/2010

Seth Whitman Elementary School

Position DetailsAbout Belvidere Community Unit School District #100

Description:
10-month elementary school Head Secretary.  8 hours per day.  Needed ASAP

Salary:

$10.11 per hour.
Qualifications:
High School Diploma or equivalent. Experience with computers; proficient with MS Word and EXCEL; Strong organizational, problem solving, and prioritizing skills. Ability to multitask; personable and ability to multi-task; Experience with database software, queries and sorting, preferred

Application Procedure:
Qualified applicants should apply on line.
Selection Procedure:
If you are selected you will be contacted by phone

Friday, November 19, 2010

Dist. #100 Announces Levy and Financial Status

The following is from page 2 of November 19, 2010’s Boone County Journal and is available online at:  http://boonecountyjournal.com/news/2010/Boone-County-News-11-19-10.pdf#page=2 

I believe that accounting irregularities of any sort at the District are items which citizens should  not tolerate.  This newspaper article describes such problems District 100 has. See the portion which I have posted in red.  I question how this could happen if the District really was reconciling its checking account monthly.

District # 100 Announces Levy and Financial Status

By James Middleton

For more than a year now one item has appeared every
month in the administrator’s report portion of the agenda
for the Belvidere Community Unit School District #100
school board meetings. That item is “Payment status of
approved State and Federal grants.” As the months have
lapsed, federal grants have consistently remained current.
However, grants from the state have been a different story.
Grants from the state cover many mandated and approved
uses by the district. In some instances personnel are hired to
satisfy the grants and in other instances educational materials
are approved for purchase.
The current status was reported by District #100
Superintendent Michael Houselog and the director of
business services, Greg Brown, for Fiscal Year 2010. In a
document provided to school board members, Mr. Brown
indicated that as of October 31, 2010, $27,800,338 in grant
funding from the state had been approved for receipt by the
district. Of that amount, more than $27,757,828 had been
approved for payment, with only $25,314,272 having been
received by the district. This leaves a $2,443,556 deficit.
The problem is that the grants have been applied for and
granted, with the district meeting the grant requirements and,
in some instances, personnel have been added to the payroll.
However, the state remains behind in providing those funds
to the district that added to the district’s deficit.
As far as federal grants having been applied for and
approved and paid for, their record is current for District
#100. The district applied for $8,668,829 in federal grants
that were also approved for payment, which the district has
received.
In Fiscal Year 2011, the situation regarding the status of
state and federal grants is comparable with Fiscal Year 2010.
Regarding the state in their payment of approved grants, the
state is behind by more than $1,726,850, while the federal
government is up-to-date with their grant payments totaling
$272,966.
Mr. Brown then entered into a discussion of the proposed
tax levy for 2010. This document must be prepared and set
aside for public evaluation and finally approved before the
closure date for presentation to the Boone County Clerk that
occurs on December 28.
Mr. Brown reported to the school board members that
the proposed levy would total $36,600,000. A breakdown of
that number has $25,495,000 assigned to the education fund,
the largest singular line item in the district budget. Other
areas included $6,000,000 for building and maintenance;
$525,000 in municipal retirement; $385,000 for fire
protection and safety; and $430,000 for special education,
to name a few.
The calendar of events leading to the final levy approval
follows from the November board of education meeting. A
newspaper advertisement will appear next, an ad that must
run a minimum of 20 days before adoption of the formal
levy by board members. During the December school
board meeting, a “Truth in Taxation” public hearing will
occur to allow members of the community to ask questions
or to protest the proposed levy. Later in that meeting the
proposed 2010 levy will come before the City Council for
final approval. The final date to file the 2010 levy to the
county clerk occurs on December 28.
Mr. Brown indicated after the meeting that little has
changed within the school budget to show improvement.
The deficit projections remain similar to what had earlier
been identified. He said, “The State of Illinois is behind
with transportation and grant payments and payments in
other areas. The good news is that foundation payments are
up-to-date.” Foundation payments are those from the state
that fund every student attending school in the district.
The district will show a potential deficit of almost $5
million in the new fiscal year. Because of delayed payments
from the state, the district remains in a deficit-spending
situation.
Board members also heard an update regarding a matter
that was reported in the audit of the district finances executed
by the audit firm of Gorenz & Associates, Ltd. They had
previously reported that the district investment funds and
some other accounts had not been timely reconciled to the
general ledger.
In the meeting Mr. Brown provided a document to board
members that explained changes in procedure that were
made. The document contained, “Some reconciling items
such as interest earned on money market accounts, were
not posted to the general ledger until succeeding months.
While the reconciling adjustments were not material on a
monthly basis and were accurate as of the end of fiscal year
(6/30/10), interim statements had small timing difference
from month to month.”
The document also noted, “It is important to note that
the bank and investment accounts are being reviewed and
reconciled each month.” The document concluded, “We
have implemented new procedures to insure that monthly
reconciliations
with the general ledger are now being
perform.

For your convenience below is a photocopy of Mr. Brown’s document as well as the criticism from the CPA firm. 

Brown's comment on audit criticism

Mr. Brown’s statement does not address the  serious problem of not reconciling outstanding checks.  See the photocopies from the CPA firm, Item 7.  The list of outstanding check are not accurate. 

Last time I balanced my checkbook if all the outstanding checks were not accounted for, then my check book could not balance to the bank statements. Perhaps this is the responsibility of the District Treasurer (James E. Metz).  I certainly believe he, Mr. Brown and Mr. Houselog  had a responsibility to notify the board of this situation before the CPA started its audit.

It appears that District 100 did not balance its checkbook monthly.  Was the District really reconciling its checking account if outstanding checks were not accurately recorded?   How large of a discrepancy was allowed to occur?  How long has this been going on?

2010 audit 1

audit 3.

The complete CPA audit is available at:  http://www.boarddocs.com/il/district100/Board.nsf/files/8A7PAF/$file/2010+Financial+Statements+District+100.pdf

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Belvidere school district and teachers union make progress - WREX.com

 

Tuesday night district administrators and union representatives met with a mediator. Superintendent Michael Houselog says they made some progress and its unlikely the nearly 600 educators will go on strike.

There's another session scheduled November 30th.

Belvidere school district and teachers union make progress - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

McHenry High School District-156 considers April tax hike

 

The McHenry District 156 school board is considering whether to ask voters for a property tax hike on April’s ballot….This month, a property tax hike referendum to help pay for educational programming failed….school board decided that they would not try for another building referendum in April…

the school board decides to go for another referendum on the April Ballot, it would need to pass a resolution to place a referendum by Jan. 18.

Click on the following for more details:  Northwest Herald | D-156 considers April tax hike

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

More Colleges Are Using Hand-Held Devices as Classroom Aids - NYTimes.com

 

Their “clickers” will tell him.

Every student in Mr. White’s class has been assigned a palm-size, wireless device that looks like a TV remote but has a far less entertaining purpose. With their clickers in hand, the students in Mr. White’s class automatically clock in as “present” as they walk into class.

They then use the numbered buttons on the devices to answer multiple-choice quizzes that count for nearly 20 percent of their grade, and that always begin precisely one minute into class. Later, with a click, they can signal to their teacher without raising a hand that they are confused by the day’s lesson

Click on the following for more details:  More Colleges Are Using Hand-Held Devices as Classroom Aids - NYTimes.com

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Student charged in WIU threats that lead to reward offer :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

update on an old story.

18-year-old Western Illinois University student [Cameron McKoy of Chicago] was arrested Tuesday and charged with making a bomb threat to his former residence hall at the school.

 

Student charged in WIU threats that lead to reward offer :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Metro & Tri-State

Friday, November 12, 2010

Belvidere School District teacher talks add mediator - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

The Belvidere Education Association and the School District’s negotiating team will meet in closed session Tuesday with a mediator to try to solidify a one-year contract.
Union President Frank Marks said an outside party could speed the process and give teachers a contract before its time to begin negotiating another.

Belvidere School District teacher talks add mediator - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

University of Fla. to Crystal Lake South: Stop using our logo - DailyHerald.com

 Florida Gators

University of Florida, which originated the logo, recently notified the McHenry County high school that its use of the logo is a violation of the university’s trademark.

Now, Crystal Lake South is working with the University of Florida to develop a plan to phase out the current logo and replace it with one that doesn’t bear such a striking resemblance to the mascot of the Southeastern Conference powerhouse

Among the places that bear the forbidden logo are the high school gym floor, teacher and student IDs, student handbooks and murals throughout Crystal Lake South

University of Fla. to Crystal Lake South: Stop using our logo - DailyHerald.com

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Watchdog group rallies outside Rockford School District building - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

 

Members have regularly attended School Board meetings and filed requests for information through the Freedom of Information Act, but the recent debate over a letter written by former district administrator Patrick Hardy drew the members to rally.

Watchdog group rallies outside Rockford School District building - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

TRS Issues Update

Based upon blog uses of this TRS explanation the following update is being posted.

In recent months, while reporting on the financial problems faced by Illinois and other states, several news organizations, including the New York Times and Fox News, have focused attention on public pension systems throughout the country as one reason why states are facing multi-million-dollar revenue shortages.
The common thread in these stories is that public pensions are too generous, are mismanaged, make too many risky investments and force states like Illinois to spend billions of dollars every year on retirees instead of states services, and that increases the potential for budget deficits and higher taxes.
TRS has not been immune to these complaints, but in most cases the criticisms have been outright falsehoods. TRS can refute the inaccuracies that have been leveled in the media against the System in the following explanations.


Teachers' Retirement System Is Not Going Out of Business in 2018

Claim: A story that has been posted on Yahoo Finance and other Web sites that says TRS will go bankrupt in 2018 because of growing unfunded pension liabilities and the inability of the state to cover those future liabilities.

Truth: The story is completely false and has been discredited repeatedly by financial experts and pension officials from around the country.
TRS is not going out of business in 2018 and all pension checks this year and in the foreseeable future will be good.
The incorrect 2018 doomsday prediction was made months ago by Jonathon Rauh, an associate professor of finance at Northwestern University. All his “study” has succeeded in doing is to scare retired and soon-to-be-retired teachers.
TRS does carry an unfunded liability of about $35 billion because the General Assembly has not always fulfilled its commitment to retired teachers and made a large enough financial contribution to TRS, as it is supposed to do. That unfunded liability is the source of Rauh’s incorrect prediction. But he cannot with any certainty whatsoever say that TRS will run out of money in 2018. TRS has carried an unfunded liability of various degrees since the 1950s and is still in business.
Rauh makes his predictions based on a set of facts of his choosing, and financial experts point out that he chooses a set of facts to ensure that he comes up with the conclusion he wants.

  • For instance, he greatly underestimates the investment income pension systems will create in the future. He uses an unrealistic rate of return of about 2 percent on investments, which deliberately shorts all future income for TRS.
  • The agency's target rate of return is 8.5 percent. In the last year, the agency's actual rate of return was 12.9 percent. Over the last 25 years it is 8.6 percent and over 28 years it is 9.4 percent.

Rauh's calculations are also based on the unpredictable assumption that Illinois state government will not be contributing much to the public pension systems in the future. There is no way he can predict that successfully.

Here are the true facts:

  • TRS currently has about $33 billion in assets.
  • We will pay out $4.1 billion in pensions and benefits this year.
  • We earned $2.8 billion in investment income during the last fiscal year.
  • We have enough money on hand, and expect investment income in the future, to ensure that TRS will still be in business beyond 2018.

Rauh's prediction will only come true if TRS does not earn another dime in investment income or receive any state contribution over the next eight years. That scenario is not only unlikely, it is impossible. His prediction is wrong.


Sale of TRS Assets

Claim:  The Chicago Tribune, the Daily Herald in suburban Chicago and Pensions & Investments magazine are reporting that TRS could sell a much as $3 billion in assets in order to fulfill pension obligations. The story also has aired on WBBM-AM in Chicago, a main news-talk radio station.

Truth: TRS is selling assets in order to meet its obligations to retired teachers and benefit recipients. But the sale of assets is not an immediate concern for retired teachers and is not an indication that the System is going bankrupt. Retired teachers will continue to get their checks and the checks will be good.
TRS has $33 billion in assets, so selling $3 billion is about 10 percent of all TRS assets. And during fiscal year 2010 which ended in June, preliminary reports indicate that the TRS portfolio generated more than $4 billion in investment income. TRS expects to pay out $4.1 billion in pensions and benefits during fiscal year 2011, so there is enough money on hand to cover all obligations.
TRS is selling assets only because the state does not have the money on hand to make its annual, required contribution to TRS and five other state pension systems. The Comptroller’s Office is authorized to contribute $2.35 billion to TRS during fiscal year 2011, but because of the state’s budget problems, the Comptroller doesn’t have the money to make its normal monthly payment to the System.
For every month that we do not receive the state payment, TRS plans to sell approximately $250 million per month, for a potential total of $3 billion for the entire fiscal year. If the state borrows money to make the contribution, TRS will have no need to sell any more assets.
A bill authorizing the sale of bonds to make this year’s pension contribution is pending in the General Assembly. It was approved by the House this spring but is stalled in the Senate. The earliest action could be taken on the bill is in November after the general election.
In selling assets, TRS is repeating steps that were taken last year when the state initially did not have the money to pay TRS and the other retirement systems. Last year TRS sold $1.3 billion in assets until the state sold bonds to pay the pension systems.
TRS is not alone in selling assets. The State Universities Retirement System could sell $1.2 billion and the State Board of Investment could sell $960 million because the state has yet to make its contribution.


Placing Illinois Teachers in Social Security

Claim: Critics of public pension plans say that requiring newly-hired Illinois teachers to become part of Social Security would help ease the burden on the underfunded Teachers’ Retirement System, help ease the long-term financial problems facing Social Security, and create more income stability for retired teachers.
Truth:
Making newly-hired teachers pay into Social Security and allowing them to be eligible for benefits would negatively affect all current and retired teachers, destabilize TRS finances and create budget problems for all local school districts; all without helping Social Security solve its financial problems.
Illinois teachers have not been part of the Social Security system for decades. Teachers currently rely almost solely on a TRS pension during retirement. Active teachers contribute 9.4 percent of their paycheck to help fund TRS and school districts contribute 0.58 percent of every teacher’s salary to the System. Last year, all told, teachers contributed $899 million to TRS and school districts contributed $170 million.
For new teachers to become part of Social Security, it is assumed that they would no longer be covered by the current TRS benefit rules and would be part of a self-administered 401(k)-style plan. Retirement benefits would depend on the members’ abilities to save money during their careers. This type of plan would supplement Social Security benefits.
For teachers, this scenario would mean a mandatory 6.2 percent payroll deduction for Social Security as well as voluntary contributions for a 401(k)-style plan. If a teacher voluntarily saved 3.2 percent of his or her salary – equaling the current 9.4 percent required contribution – their ultimate pensions likely would not equal the pension they would receive under the current system. The difference would be due to the lack of a centralized investment program and Social Security benefit rules. Teachers likely would have to voluntarily contribute more than 3.2 percent to equal the benefits they would receive under the current system, decreasing their take-home pay.
For school districts, the cost of teacher pensions would immediately rise by a considerable amount under this scenario. Instead of contributing 0.58 percent per new teacher, every district would have to contribute 6.2 percent per teacher. It is estimated that this increased cost would equal $41 million for Illinois school districts in the first year and more than $2.4 billion over 10 years. Plus, districts would still have to contribute 0.58 percent for each participant in the current system. With most school districts already facing serious financial troubles, this added burden would be difficult to manage successfully.
For TRS, moving new teachers to Social Security creates a “double hit” on annual revenue needed to pay pensions. Removing the contributions of new teachers and school districts from the revenue mix of the current pension system reduces the amount of money available for investment. Last year, TRS investment income made up 49 percent of each pension check. Plus, as teachers in the current system retire, those contributions are lost, as well, and are not replaced as they had been in the past. In the meantime, pension obligations must be met. By reducing a significant funding source, TRS becomes more dependent on general tax dollars appropriated by state government.
Finally, a 1999 study by the General Accounting Office found that adding teachers and other public employers from around the country who are not currently in Social Security would create, at best, a temporary surge in revenue for Social Security. Over the long term, adding teachers to Social Security would only increase the System’s total obligations and deepen the long-term funding problem.


"Risky" Investments

Claim: A Northwestern University study from March, 2010 concludes TRS has the “fourth riskiest” pension system in the country, with 81.5 percent of investments classified as “risky.”

Truth: The “study” is misleading. It merely totals the assets that TRS and 24 other pension systems have that are not held in cash or invested in fixed income securities, and labels these investments as “risky.” No valuation is assigned to any of the thousands of individual investments held by TRS, so the study does not rank how risky the TRS portfolio is compared to any other system. TRS is required to maximize the resources available for retired teachers. All investments carry some element of risk. Without its investment portfolio, TRS could not keep pace with the resources needed for pension and benefit checks. Forty-nine percent of a TRS pension check comes from investment income. Check out the “study” at www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=125059110.


“Mismanagement”

Claim: TRS is endangering teacher pensions by seeking to make a fast buck through “risky” trades in derivatives – attempting to recoup $4.4 billion in investments that were lost during fiscal year 2009.

Truth: TRS did lose $4.4 billion during 2008-2009, but almost every investor lost money. The losses stemmed from a worldwide economic downturn in stocks, bonds and real estate, not because of mismanagement or trading in derivatives. This year TRS has not made any substantial changes in its investment philosophy, and the overall $33.7 billion portfolio is on track for a positive rate of return that exceeds 19 percent. The target rate of return for TRS is 8.5 percent.


Derivatives

Claim: TRS is needlessly risking members’ assets in the last year on derivative investments in order to make a lot of money quickly. The media point a negative finger at TRS for trading in derivatives because many financial commentators blame derivative trading for sparking the 2008-2009 economic downturn.
Truth: TRS has been successfully trading in derivatives since 1986 without harming pensions. In the last year, TRS saw those derivative investments return $173 million. That is not a lot in a $33 billion portfolio and certainly not enough to cover the $4.4 billion losses of the previous year. In reality, for institutional investors like TRS, derivatives serve another purpose. They are never used to make quick profits, but to reduce risk in a large portfolio and to make some investments available at a lower cost. Despite the negative image, all large pension funds and institutional investors trade in derivatives. Derivatives comprise the largest investment market in the world, valued at $650 trillion. Derivatives are investment contracts whose value is based on the performance of a bundled group of financial assets, almost like a mutual fund. At TRS, a derivative investment is only made in conjunction with an investment in an asset that is included in the derivative package. The value of a particular investment, on its own, may vary over a period of time. But coupled with other investments, the average value of the package does not vary as wildly because the combined investments buffer each other – as one falls, another rises.


Underfunding

Claim: TRS, like many other pension systems throughout the United States, is “underfunded” over the long term and does not have sufficient resources to meet all its obligations to retired teachers in the future.

Truth: Unfortunately, TRS is underfunded in the long term. During the last fiscal year, the System’s unfunded liability, as measured under state law, stood at $35 billion, leaving a funded ratio of 52 percent. In other words, if all obligations were called due today, the System could not meet 48 percent of the outstanding pensions and benefits. That won’t happen because not all teachers will retire at once. This underfunding problem is several decades old, and has been caused primarily by state elected officials not contributing enough money to the System to meet its projected long-term needs. Evidence exists that an unfunded liability problem existed as far back as the 1950s.


Teacher Pensions are too “Generous”

Claim: The guaranteed benefits of retired teachers and other government workers are too high and are out of synch with retirement benefits found in the private sector. The rising costs of maintaining these pensions should be scaled back in order to avoid tax increases and cuts in other public services.

Truth: The average annual retirement benefit for an Illinois teacher is a little more than $43,000. When you consider that Illinois educators do not qualify for Social Security during their teaching years, this benefit cannot qualify as “too generous.” Not only are these benefits the sole monetary lifeline for retired teachers, but they stimulate the economy: The pensions and benefits paid annually to retired teachers living in Illinois create more than $4 billion in economic activity, including more than 30,000 full-time jobs that mean $2.3 billion in wages for non-teachers.


Reduce Pension Benefits for Current TRS Members

Claim: Because of Illinois’ financial trouble, benefits to existing teachers and government employees should not be guaranteed, but lowered to save the state billions of dollars every year. One argument is that pension credits for existing teachers should be left intact for service they have performed but reduced for future service they have not yet performed.

Truth: Pension benefits for existing teachers and government employees are guaranteed by Article XIII, Paragraph 5 of the Illinois Constitution and cannot be “diminished” in any way. Since 1972, at least seven court cases have affirmed the meaning of this clause. It is highly unlikely that the General Assembly will challenge this well-established legal precedent. There is no language in the Constitution that remotely comes close to allowing pension benefits to be changed prospectively for service that has not yet been performed.


Pension Guarantee

Claim: The Civic Committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago has said that pensions due to Illinois teachers and public employees are not guaranteed by the state; implying that if a state pension system goes broke, retirees have no recourse to collect the money owed them. It cites the Illinois Pension Code – 40 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5/22-403 – as saying that “any pension payable under any law herein before referred to shall not be construed to be a legal obligation or debt of the State…”

Truth: For TRS members, their pensions are guaranteed by the State of Illinois. The Civic Committee does not quote the entire law when referencing the Illinois Pension Code and leaves out an important phrase – “…unless otherwise specifically provided in the law creating such fund.” In other words, language in another state law creating a pension fund can override this section of the Illinois Pension Code.
For Illinois teachers, the section of the Pension Code cited by the Commercial Club is overridden by 40 ILCS 5/16-158(c), a part of the law that created TRS. This section specifically states, “Payment of the required State contributions and of all pensions, retirement annuities, death benefits, refunds, and other benefits granted under or assumed by this System, and all expenses in connection with the administration and operation thereof, are obligations of the State.”
In addition, Article XIII Section 5 of the Illinois Constitution says protects “membership” in any state pension system as an “enforceable contractual relationship.”

TRS Issues Update

Click on the following for any further updates from TRS:  TRS Issues Update

Saturday, November 6, 2010

District 158 Floats Plan To Prevent Tax Bill Increase

District 100 taxpayers-- our bond payments for the $100 million schools on Beloit Road have interest and principal payments increasing 7+% per year.  With Real Estate values going down, down-- something similar may need to happen.

The District 158 [Huntley] Board of Education Thursday approved exploring a plan to keep school property taxes from skyrocketing.  If the numbers work, the District will, in essence, issue $6 million in new bonds to help pay the interest on the bonds it's already issued. Naturally, things are more complicated than that.

Eric Anderson, Managing Director at underwriter BMO Capital Markets, estimated that even though taxpayers' individual assessments will go down for the 2010 tax year their bills would go up anywhere from 3.6 to 4.1 percent unless something's done.

 

The plan is to issue new bonds to be paid off later and (skipping some intermediate steps here) use the new money to make up the shortfall looming on the current bond payments.

Click on the following for more details:  FirstElectricNewspaper: District 158 Floats Plan To Prevent Tax Bill Increase

2 local students named to ISBE Student Advisory Council

 

They will represent their peers and help lead a study on physical education for high school districts and the impact on school district budgets.

Conor Reilley was elected president of his class this year at Belvidere North. He is also on the scholastic bowl and science olympiad teams, on the football and basketball teams, the newspaper, and plans on joining the school's improv team, Improv Anonymous

2 local students named to ISBE Student Advisory Council - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Senators Deadlocked on Pension Borrowing | Illinois Statehouse News

 

In May, the Illinois House passed the proposal by just one vote. Retiring state Reps. Bill Black, R-Danville, and Bob Biggins, R-Elmhurst, joined Democrats in supporting the proposal.

Since then, Senate President John Cullerton has repeatedly said his chamber lacks the votes to pass the proposal, despite the extraordinary majority Democrats currently have in the Illinois Senate.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, said Republican leadership is hindering passage of the proposal

Illinois Senate would need a three-fifths majority to pass the borrowing proposal

Click on the following for more details: Senators Deadlocked on Pension Borrowing | Illinois Statehouse News

Western Illinois University students allowed back in dorm after bomb threat in Macomb

bomb threat was called in to Tanner Hall at approximately 1:14 p.m. Thursday. The Illinois Secretary of State Bomb Squad and specially-trained canines completed a thorough search of Tanner Hall early Thursday evening and found no evidence of explosive devices.

Tanner Hall, which houses approximately 800 freshmen, received a similar threat on Oct. 25, also prompting an evacuation. Police have since charged Cameron McKoy, of 911 Tanner Hall, with transmitting a threat of destruction to a school.

Click on the following for more details: 

WIU students allowed back in dorm after bomb threat in Macomb - Quad Cities Online

McHenry High School District 156, cuts loom

Administrators are preparing to cut $2.7 million from the district budget for 2011-12 after voters rejected the district’s 60-cent education fund rate hike request.

Without additional revenue, the district plans to cut all extracurricular activities and athletics, 27.7 full time staff positions, and about 80 course offerings

Click on the following for more details:  Northwest Herald | In District 156, cuts loom

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Rock River Times sues District 205

IPA, TRRT file suit against District 205, LaVonne Sheffield

By Joe McGehee
Staff Writer

The Illinois Press Association, The Rock River Times (TRRT) and TRRT Staff Writer Joe McGehee are plaintiffs in a lawsuit filed Nov. 3 against Rockford Public School District 205 and District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield.

The lawsuit stems from the district’s refusal to release an unflattering letter written by former Rockford Auburn High School Principal and current Freeport High School Principal Dr. Patrick Hardy. The letter was written by Hardy in response to District 205 Superintendent Dr. LaVonne M. Sheffield’s letter titled “Separation of Employment,” dated June 17, 2010.

According to the complaint: “The School District willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the FOIA [Freedom of Information Act] in relying on a series of baseless exemptions, one after another, in an effort to avoid compliance with the FOIA and eventually abandoning those exemptions only to cite further inapplicable exemptions.”

The complaint also asserts that “In alleging those baseless exemptions of the FOIA, the School District acted in bad faith.”


To view the official complaint filed Nov. 3, click here.

To view the press release about the case distributed statewide by the IPA, click here.

Following are links to TRRT’s coverage of its attempts to obtain the letter:

District 205 battles to keep unflattering letter private, Oct. 6-12, 2010, issue of TRRT

District 205 challenges Public Access Council’s ruling, continues battle to keep unflattering letter from public, Oct. 13-19, 2010, issue of TRRT

District 205 yet to release unflattering letter, Oct. 20-26, 2010, issue of TTRT

Board of Education says little about battle over unflattering letter, Nov. 3-9, 2010, issue of TRRT

Editorial: Public must take stand in battle for unflattering letter, Nov. 3-9, 2010, issue of TRRT

IPA, TRRT file suit against District 205, LaVonne Sheffield | The Rock River Times

School Referendum Results

Posts during the past months highlighted various referendum initiative by school boards across the state here are some of the results:

McHenry High School District 156—two referenda both defeated

For more  information about the referenda go to:  http://district100watchdog.blogspot.com/2010/09/mchenry-high-school-district-156.html

Palatine Township School District 15

A promise by Palatine Township Elementary District 15 leaders to abandon the most controversial portion of a massive borrowing plan wasn't enough to win over voters.

With 83 of 88 precincts counted as of early Wednesday morning, unofficial results had 19,282 voters saying “no” and 9,550 saying “yes” on the referendum question. The district asked voters for permission to borrow $27 million for a working cash fund and building improvements.

Click on the following for more of the story:http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20101102/news/711039788/

This was an attempted back door referendum, for more information on that part of the issue go to:  http://district100watchdog.blogspot.com/2010/04/palatine-township-petition-drive-was.html

Kishwaukee College, [DeKalb County] Malta, Illinois  

PASSED---------------------

KISHWAUKEE COLLEGE DIST. 523 BUILDING BONDS
COLLEGE DIST 523
VOTE FOR 1
(WITH 76 OF 76 PRECINCTS COUNTED)
YES . . . . . . . . . . . . 15,310 65.29
NO. . . . . . . . . . . . . 8,141 34.71
Total . . . . . . . . . 23,451
Over Votes . . . . . . . . . 8
Under Votes . . . . . . . . . 1,064

For more information on the issue go to: http://district100watchdog.blogspot.com/2010/01/kish-college-to-ask-for-585m-referendum.html

Cary Elementary District 26working capital referendum—Referendum passed

CCCSD 26 BONDS
Precincts Reporting
20/20
100.00%

YES 4620 58.21%

NO 3316 41.78%

Wauconda District 118 working capital referendum

Still researching for results

 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Northwest Herald | Teacher contracts up in 11 McHenry County school districts

 

The last year of current teachers union contracts by school district

District 2 Nippersink 2010-11

District 3 Fox River Grove 2012-13

District 12 Johnsburg 2012-13

District 15 McHenry Elementary 2011-12

District 18 Riley 2010-11

District 19 Alden Hebron 2010-11

District 26 Cary 2010-11

District 36 Harrison 2011-12

District 46 Prairie Grove 2010-11

District 47 Crystal Lake 2012-13

District 50 Harvard 2011-12

District 154 Marengo High School 2010-11

District 155 Crystal Lake 2010-11

District 156 McHenry 2010-11

District 157 Richmond Burton 2010-11

District 158 Huntley 2010-11

District 165 Marengo 2011-12

District 200 Woodstock 2011-12

District 300 Carpentersville 2010-11

Northwest Herald | Teacher contracts up in 11 local districts