Monday, May 27, 2013

Obama Student Loan Policy Reaping $51 Billion Profit

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At $1.1 trillion, student debt eclipses all other forms of household debt, except for home mortgages. It's also the only kind of consumer debt that has increased since the onset of the financial crisis, according to the New York Fed. Officials in Washington are worried that overly indebted student borrowers are unable to save enough to purchase a home, take out loans for new cars, start a business or save enough for their retirement.

Policymakers also are worried about the effect that high interest rates on outstanding student debt may have on the broader economy. Congress sets interest rates on federal student loans, with rates fixed on the majority of loans at 6.8 and 7.9 percent

Click on the following to read all of the story:  Obama Student Loan Policy Reaping $51 Billion Profit

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Steven Vogel’s Opinion on Illinois Pension Reform “must” include judges

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 Steve Vogel | vogelgraph@yahoo.com

(1) Comments

If I were a judge in Illinois, frankly I’d be embarrassed. In their sluggish search for a solution to the state’s pension mess, state legislators seem determined to leave the judges’ pension system untouched by reforms that will almost surely require financial sacrifice by hundreds of thousands of other active and retired public workers — including lawmakers themselves.

Why is the judicial pension system being left alone while the other four may be placed on a forced diet? Because ultimately, seven of the nearly 1,000 judges holding court in Illinois likely will be asked to decide whether desperately-needed pension reforms passed by lawmakers and signed by the governor are constitutional. Those seven are members of the Illinois Supreme Court.

Cynics suggest it’s an outright bribe: Leave judges’ benefits intact and they’ll approve fixes to the other troubled pension systems, helping the state out of a tight spot. House Speaker Mike Madigan says it’s not that at all; he just doesn’t want to put the justices in a conflict of interest. Either way, it’s an insult to our state judiciary, suggesting Illinois’ highest court is unable to put self-interest aside and properly weigh legal arguments presented by interested parties.

Am I naïve, caught in a junior high civics class time warp?

Then, there’s this: No state pays its judges more. A circuit court judge makes about $181,000 a year, associate judges somewhat less, appellate and Supreme Court judges somewhat more. There are about 1,000 retired judges getting annual pensions averaging $112,000 — not quite triple what a typical retired public pensioner gets. And I don’t have a problem with that.

We want smart, quality people on the bench — people who could very well make more in a private law firm, but who are drawn to public service, even if it means financial sacrifice. We also want them financially secure enough that they won’t ever succumb to bribery (like that ever happens in Illinois). So we need to make the job financially inviting — not so much that it lures lawyers only for the pay, but solid enough that it attracts really good people.

But seriously. Judges can tighten those belts under their judicial robes just a little, can’t they?

Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, says he can’t support pension reforms if they don’t include judges. He says he wants to be able to look ISU employees, local public school teachers and rank-and-file state workers in the eye and say the reforms may be painful, but they’re fair. Understandable, even if it tastes a bit like an easy way to avoid casting a burdensome vote.

Solving this problem requires everyone contributing to the solution. That means judges, too.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Leaders aim to open Garden Prairie site for special-needs students - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

 

The School Board agreed Monday to let district officials start negotiating the terms to lease the now-closed Kishwaukee Elementary School to Camelot Schools. The company serves multineed students, typically those who are autistic or developmentally delayed.

Click on the following to read all of the story:  Leaders aim to open Garden Prairie site for special-needs students - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Belvidere School District's attorney to resign - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

By Jennifer Wheeler

Curt Tobin represents District 100 in legal matters, except in contract negotiations with the teacher's union and specific areas, like special education. He originally submitted his resignation to the School Board in March, although he agreed to represent District 100 until the School Board selected new counsel.

“I am trying to dial down my practice to a more comfortable level for me as I get further into the golden years,” Tobin wrote School Board President Michael Rathbun.

Click on the following for more details:  Belvidere School District's attorney to resign - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Belvidere Endeavor High celebrates 2013 graduates | Belvidere Daily Republican

 

With an enrollment of 45 students last year, Endeavor graduated 14 students.  On Monday, 20 students graduated with 17 in attendance for the ceremony.

School Principal Matt Ross stood at the podium and announced, “What a tremendous day!”  With justified pride, he said that 43 students have graduated from the school in the two years it has been open.  He told the students, “Graduation is a day to hold your head high!”

Click on the following for more details:  Belvidere Endeavor High celebrates 2013 graduates | Belvidere Daily Republican

Universities agree to pick up pension costs | NIU Today

 

Phase-in of new plan would start in 2015

Mike Madigan

Mike Madigan

Presidents and chancellors at public universities and colleges across the state reached an agreement in principal with House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and House leaders Thursday for public universities to assume the employer share of employee pension costs beginning in FY2015.

Click on the following for more details:  Universities agree to pick up pension costs | NIU Today

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Only 27 percent of graduates have a job related to college major

 

majority of graduates are working in a field unrelated to their college major. But here's a twist: the study also showed that the chance of finding a job related to your major increases if you move to a big city.

Only 27 percent of graduates have a job related to college major

Larry Cunningham resigns from Belvidere School Board - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

This is Mr. Cunningham’s second resignation.

Cunningham is moving outside of Bonus Township, although he will continue to live within the Belvidere School District boundary lines.

The School District has 45 days to fill the vacancy. Those interested in serving on the board must submit a resume and a letter of intention describing why they would like to be considered for the position.

Those who are interested in the position must submit a letter and resume to School Board President Mike Rathbun at 1201 Fifth Ave., in Belvidere, by June 11.

Click on the following for more details:  Larry Cunningham resigns from Belvidere School Board - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Kish Elementary students get free tablet computers as parting gift - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

By Jennifer Wheeler

Belvidere Community Unit School District 100

Each Kishwaukee Elementary School family will receive a big parting gift when the school closes — a Lenovo tablet.

PTO President Holly Houk said the organization spent almost $29,000 of the $40,000 left in its fund on tablets. Parents wanted to give Kishwaukee families something educational and fun, something they could use for years to come. The remaining PTO funds are being spent on a community celebration Saturday and other miscellaneous expenses

Click on the following for the rest of the story:  Kish Elementary students get free tablet computers as parting gift - Rockford, IL - Rockford Register Star

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Beloit WI District OKs iPad project - Beloit Daily News: News

 

We are facing vouchers and we need an edge,” Henderson said. “We have to have something here in Beloit that makes us special. People are excited about this. “

Currently, there are about 600 iPads in the district for students to use, Assistant Superintendent Lynee Tourdot said in an earlier interview.

The program titled Beloit Ignite would cost $3.5 million to $4 million over the three or four years it takes to launch the program. District officials claim the plan could save the schools at least $2.25 million over the same time period because of savings in copier, textbook, paper and technology support. There is also the potential to resell the iPads once they become outdated.

And because computer labs may one day be phased out as part of growing trends in technology, the district suggests savings could be even greater in the long run.

Click on the following for more detailsDistrict OKs iPad project - Beloit Daily News: News

Friday, May 10, 2013

Capron Elementary not available for soup kitchen – for now | Belvidere Daily Republican

 

Written by Bob Balgemann

school’s kitchen will be undergoing renovations this summer

Secondly, there appears to be a degree of opposition to having the kitchen at the school.

Capron Village President-elect Ken Grzybowski questioned the idea of people “who don’t belong in a school” being allowed to be there. “I think it’s a bad idea all-around,” he said, adding that the village initially was not aware of the proposal.

A point in time survey conducted Feb. 23 showed 177 homeless living in Boone County. Of that number, 60 were “literally homeless,” and found to be living in their cars and in abandoned buildings. Of the 60, a “disproportionate number” were found in Capron.

Click on the following to read the entire article: Capron Elementary not available for soup kitchen – for now | Belvidere Daily Republican

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Belvidere schools meet USDA HealthierUS School challenge - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

 

The certification has bronze, silver, and gold levels. Schools qualify for each level depending on the percent of eligible students taking part in the free and reduced breakfast and lunch programs, weekly physical activities, menu plans, nutrition education, and partnerships with community groups to promote health.

The following District 100 schools were certified this school year:

  • Belvidere Central Middle School - Bronze
  • Caledonia Elementary - Bronze
  • Kishwaukee Elementary - Bronze
  • Meehan Elementary - Silver
  • Perry Elementary - Silver
  • Seth Whitman Elementary - Bronze

For a full list of certified Illinois schools, visit www.healthyaccesslocator.com.

 

Read the entire story by clicking on the following:  Belvidere schools meet USDA HealthierUS School challenge - WREX.com – Rockford’s News Leader

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Speaker Madigan’s Pension Proposal

 

Speaker Madigan’s Pension Proposal – HA #1 to Senate Bill 1

House Amendment #1 to Senate Bill 1 is a comprehensive package that will stabilize and bring solvencyto 4 of the State’s pension funds (GARS, SERS, SURS, and TRS). This package will ensure the Statemeets its obligations to the pension systems by adopting an actuarially accepted payment schedule,providing an enforceable funding guarantee, and altering benefits for current and prospective annuitants.The concepts in this package are not new, and several have been approved by the House.

 

1)New funding schedule.

The new schedule requires the systems to reach 100% funding in 30 years,beginning in FY 15 and ending 2044.

 

2)New method for certifying contributions.

Beginning in FY 15, contributions will be certified using the entry age normal actuarial cost method (“EAN”) instead of the projected unit credit actuarial method (“PUC”). The PUC method, which the systems currently use, requires higher contributions closer to retirement. The EAN method averages costs evenly over the pensioner’s employment,thereby resulting in more level contributions. This change was approved by the House in HB 1277(Senger).

 

3)Supplemental contributions beginning in FY 20.

The State currently makes payments on pension obligation notes from 2010 and 2011, and in 2019, the State will make a final payment of $952million. Once those payments end, the State commits to annually contribute $1 billion

in addition to

the state’s scheduled contributions to the state-funded systems. The additional contributions will continue until all systems reach their funding goal.

 

4)Provide a funding guarantee.

If the State fails to make a required payment under the funding schedule

or

fails to contribute the additional $1 billion promised above, the systems will have a right to bring a mandamus action to compel the State to make the payment. Each Board will have a fiduciary duty to bring an action if necessary. Payments compelled under this provision are expressly subordinate to the state’s debt service obligations.

 

5)Establish a pensionable salary cap for Tier I employees.

The amendment applies the Tier II salary cap to Tier I employees. For 2013, the salary cap was $109,971. The cap will increase annually by ½ the consumer price index for urban consumers. There is a grandfather clause for those employees with salaries that currently exceeds the cap or will exceed the cap based on raises due to the person under a current collective bargaining agreement. Under the proposal, a person whose salary exceeds the salary cap is only eligible for an annuity based on the salary cap.

 

6)New method of calculating the COLA.

Retired members will keep the compounded 3% annual increases they received up until the enactment, but future COLAs will be calculated differently. Going forward, the COLA will be based on 3% of a maximum annuity amount based on their years of service. The cap will be $1,000 for each year the employee had worked ($800 for those coordinated

with Social Security). As an example, an individual retiring with 30 years of service will have a COLA of 3% of $30,000 or $900, which accumulates annually. If a person’s initial annuity is under this threshold, that person will continue receiving a 3% compounded adjustment based on their initial annuity until they reach the cap. This adjustment was originally proposed by Senator Radogno and incorporated in Senate Amendment #4 to SB 35. Additionally, current and future retirees would have the first or next year in which they can receive their COLA delayed. Retirees who are age 67 and older would be unaffected by this delay. Those under age 67 would have their COLA paused until either they reach age 67 or until the 5th

anniversary of their retirement, whichever comes first.

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7)Increase the retirement age for employees under 45 years old.

The amendment raises the retirement age, on a graduated scale, for current Tier I members who are under 45 years old (no change for those 45 years of age or older). This language was approved by the House in HB1166(Madigan) and is included in the Cross-Nekritz pension reform package (HB 3411).The retirement age is increased by the following schedule:

Age 40 to 44 – additional 1 year added to the applicable system’s minimum retirement age;

Age 35 to 39 – additional 3 years added; and

Below 35 – additional 5 years added.

 

8)Increase employee contributions by 2%.

Beginning July 1, 2013, employees will be required to contribute an additional 1%, and this is increased to 2% on July 1, 2014.

 

9)Eliminate the subject of pensions for collective bargaining.

Bargaining units and employers with participants in the State systems would be prohibited from negotiating changes related to pensions.

 

10)Fix the COLA for Tier II members of GARS.

Under current law, the General Assembly and Judges’ Retirement systems have their salary cap and annuity increased by the lesser of CPI or 3%. All other systems have their salary cap and annuity increased by the lesser of one-half of CPI or 3%. This draft lowers the General Assembly Retirement System down to one-half of CPI to bring it in line with other systems.

 

11)Prohibit non-governmental organizations from participating in State systems.

The amendmentprevents new employees of several “non-governmental” organizations from participating under IMRF,SURS, and TRS. Additionally, it prohibits new employees of all state systems from using sick time or vacation time in calculating their annuity.

 

12)Change the effective rate of interest

. The amendment suggests that the Comptroller adopt a more conservative number for what is known as the “effective rate of interest” (“ERI”). Under current law,the ERI determines benefits for university and community college employees hired before 2005. The amendment still provides that the Comptroller set this rate, but advises a figure that will more appropriately determine benefits for certain participants.

 

13)Prohibit the use of pension funds to pay costs associated with healthcare.

The amendment makes clear that the state funded pension systems are not to use retirement contributions for the purpose of subsidizing the cost of retiree healthcare.

 

14)Require separate appropriation request for employer normal cost and amortization of the unfunded liability.

The Governor must introduce and the systems must certify these costs separately.

The above is taken from:  Speaker Madigan’s Pension Proposal