Sunday, October 2, 2016

Obscure court case could hold key to schools funding reform

 

RICH MILLER ON SPRINGFIELD

By Rich Miller

illinois-school-funding.jpg

Photo by Thinkstock

Gov. Rauner attended a meeting last week of his "Cabinet on Children & Youth," but it's not known if he pulled aside one of its members, State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, for a little chat.

The Illinois State Board of Education is reportedly mulling whether to settle a civil rights lawsuit filed eight years ago by the Chicago Urban League. The suit essentially claims that Illinois' education funding system violates minority students' rights because a disproportionate number of those kids reside in areas with the lowest property wealth and also attend schools with majority-minority enrollment. They're basically getting shafted by the state, so they sued.

According to the Urban League's CEO Shari Runner, the ISBE "walked away from lengthy settlement talks that we held this summer." The group has filed a motion for summary judgment and Runner said last week it is "awaiting ISBE's response." Runner said the group hopes to "hold ISBE liable for implementing an unlawful and discriminatory school system."

 -

A settlement would drastically alter the way Illinois funds its school system, with wealthier suburban and Downstate districts losing tons of state money. It would also preempt long-stalled legislative action on the topic.

Last summer, when negotiations with the Urban League were still apparently underway, Gov. Rauner impaneled an education funding reform working group and charged it with coming up with a solution to the funding inequities by the first of next year. So, the Urban League's civil rights lawsuit may actually be why Rauner imposed such an ambitious timetable.

What the administration doesn't want (along with a whole lot of impacted legislators) is to take the tricky solution out of the hands of the governor and the General Assembly and give it to a Cook County judge. But there's no guarantee that the governor's funding reform working group will come to an agreement. A deal is politically complicated because legislators who represent wealthier school districts also tend to oppose tax hikes. But they'll be forced to choose between losing state cash or voting for higher state taxes. Some might actually welcome judicial intervention to spare them this fate.

Word from inside is that some ISBE legal staff are urging board members to settle the suit. The board's chief legal counsel, for instance, is a former Chicago Public Schools chief of staff. The city's school system filed an amicus brief years ago supporting the Urban League case.

Perhaps more importantly, though, a massive amount of supporting data has been compiled since the suit was brought all those years ago, mainly because of state Sen. Andy Manar's constant push to reform the system. The plaintiffs might be able to make their case more easily now than they could when their suit was filed. So, the logic goes, a settlement would be far better than a loss.

Superintendent Smith has made no bones about the fact that the state's funding system is archaic and harmful to minority children, but he apparently hasn't spoken up in the last couple of private board meetings when members discussed the litigation, and one board member swears Smith is not communicating directly with members about the case. Still, rumors abound that he is driving the settlement talks.

Smith has recently upped his national profile by traveling the country to talk about various education issues. He is not a popular man within the administration for several reasons, and his generous employment contract caused the Rauner folks quite a few headaches last year. Some Republicans claim he's angling for a spot in a potential Hillary Clinton administration, which he has denied.

State Board of Education Chairman James Meeks, a former state Senator who pushed hard for education funding reform for years and was one of a tiny number of high-profile African-Americans to support Rauner's 2014 election, has reportedly not taken an official position on the litigation. Meeks is said to be suggesting that board members also talk with the governor's legal counsel to get another side of the issue. The board insists that Smith doesn't have the authority to settle the case on his own, and there's no indication at this moment that he plans to do so.

A settlement would also create a thorny political problem for Gov. Rauner down the road. A big chunk of his political base would get the short end of the stick, which won't go over well when he runs for reelection in 2018.

Ironically, the state government got itself dismissed from the case several years ago, so I suppose we could see the administration try to get itself back into the game if the ISBE decides to move forward with a settlement.

Rich Miller also publishes Capitol Fax, a daily political newsletter, and CapitolFax.com.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160930/NEWS02/160939984/obscure-court-case-could-hold-key-to-schools-funding-reform

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

$50 million St. Charles school closing, upgrade could be done without voters' OK

James Fuller

James Fuller

Middle school closure and renovation plans in St. Charles may move forward this fall without a vote on increasing taxes.

District administrators are presenting plans to middle school staff members his week. The plans show how the district can close Haines Middle School and cobble together $50 million without a ballot question to improve Wredling and Thompson middle schools. Here's how that would be accomplished:

Proposed attendance boundary changes
Closing Haines Middle School would create a need to redraw middle school attendance boundaries. The construction work on Thompson Middle School would also take a couple years, forcing some shuffling of existing students. Every student currently at Haines would finish their middle school careers there. Existing Thompson students would finish their middle school careers at Haines. Under the changes, all students at an elementary school would move on to the same middle school.
Where elementary students would go• Bell Graham students would go to Thompson (no change)
• Ferson Creek students would go to Thompson (currently Haines)
• Lincoln students would go to Thompson (currently Wredling)
• Richmond/Davis students would go to Thompson (mostly Thompson now)
• Wasco students would go to Thompson (currently Haines)
• Anderson students would go to Wredling (no change)
• Corron students would go to Wredling (currently Haines)
• Fox Ridge students would go to Wredling (no change)
• Norton Creek students would go to Wredling (no change)
• Munhall students would go to Wredling (no change)
• Wild Rose students would go to Wredling (currently Haines)
Source: St. Charles Unit District 303

• About $19.3 million of that total would come from spending down the district's savings account. The withdrawal would still leave the district with enough savings to meet the financial policies established by the school board and state school finance recommendations.

• Another $15 million would be borrowed; the district has about $25 million worth of bonding authority. "This is not free money," Superintendent Don Schlomann said Tuesday. "But the $15 million will have a fairly small amount of impact to local taxpayers."

• The district also has about $7.8 million from a state construction grant it received six years ago.

• The remaining $7.9 million would come from a $1.7 million budget surplus from last year and by taking part of the $2.4 million in annual savings that would result from closing Haines. The plan would take $2.2 million of the savings in the 2016-17. Then it would use $2 million of the savings in both 2017-18 and 2018-19 to pay for the plan.

That all amounts to a tax increase of about $30 for the owner of a $300,000 home. The increase will be blunted by some concurrent retirement of district debt, reducing the increase to $23 for that same homeowner. In 2018, the district will pay off most of its remaining debt, resulting in a $600 property tax reduction to the owner of a $300,000 home. That savings would drop to $570 if the school board approves the middle school project.

What taxpayers would get for all that spending is the same as district staff presented during the community forums from this past summer. Haines would close. Wredling would get a cafeteria capable of hosting 500 students and 10 upgraded STEM labs. Thompson would get those same improvements plus 31 new classrooms, an additional gym, a new fitness room and air conditioning.

Schlomann said the idea to move forward without a referendum evolved out of community forums and a survey of community residents that showed the community would probably not support a tax increase.

"What we saw in the survey data is the community pretty much like the idea of upgrading the middle schools, going from three to two, but they didn't want to have to pay for it," Schlomann said.

That resulted in a quest to move forward without a referendum and the new plan. The plan isn't ideal, Schlomann said, but it is responsive to the recent community input.

"The board and my most comfort level would have been going to referendum and having the community participate in this because, financially, it would have been less risky for the district to do that," Schlomann said.

Schlomann said the risk comes from spending down the district's savings more than district officials would like.

"You always want to have that security blanket of having those dollars," Schlomann said. "But at some point, you can have too many dollars. The taxpayers paid these dollars to us, and we should use them judiciously to the benefit of kids. Our proposal, we believe, does that."

The school board will get its first look at the plan Sept. 29. It will vote on the Wredling part of the plan Oct. 11. The final vote on the entire plan will occur Nov. 14. The district will host three community forums on the plan: Oct. 20 at Haines, Oct. 24 at Wredling and Oct. 25 at Thompson.

 

Above is from:  http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20160920/news/160929862/

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Chicago Tribune Editorial: Governor Rauner, fire the Chicago State University board

image

 

On Friday, Chicago State University trustees unfurled a $600,000 golden parachute for President Thomas Calhoun Jr.

The trustees accepted Calhoun's resignation — translation: fired him — after just nine months on the job. This after he was welcomed months ago as an exceptional leader to rescue ever-more-troubled CSU, with its abysmal graduation rates, fleeing students and cratering budget. And after more than 100 faculty members signed a letter urging trustees to support Calhoun and keep him in office.

The board's explanation for Calhoun's forced departure: None.

Infuriating.

Board members wouldn't say why they so generously doled out that $600,000 to make Calhoun go away. Calhoun also remains mum.

That $600,000 is money that won't be used to improve classroom instruction at Chicago State, already in deep academic trouble. It won't be used to shore up the school's wobbly finances after spending an unfortunate $2.2 million, most of it in severance for nearly 400 employees laid off since the beginning of the year. This is a school hemorrhaging cash, failing its students and now drained of its last ounce of credibility.

Thomas Calhoun out as president

The Chicago State University board voted Thomas Calhoun out as university president on Sept. 16, 2016.

Cash-starved CSU is now even more cash-starved. And leadership-starved.

We don't know yet the particulars of why the board ousted Calhoun.

But we do know that Gov. Bruce Rauner now has a mission: Clean house. Four members of CSU's eight-member board finish their terms in January. The rest? Whoever voted to fire Calhoun without issuing a candid public explanation should go.

Rauner should be demanding their resignations now.

On Thursday, Rauner sounded as perplexed as everyone else about this latest CSU debacle: "I'm still trying to sort out, our team's trying to sort out, exactly what's going on there," he said. "We're going to do a thoughtful process to try to find highly qualified individuals to serve on that board. The second thing I'll say is, Chicago State is a very important institution. We'd like to see them do well. I would like to be very supportive of them. But in the past, for many years, they've had management problems and they've had significant financial difficulties. And I'd like to see them better run."

We'd like to see CSU better run, too. So would students, many of them from low-income families. These students rely on the Far South Side school for an education, a chance to succeed in life — not stark lessons in How Not To Run A University.

Calhoun isn't the first Illinois college panjandrum to be slipped a fat severance envelope on the way out the door. Colleges and other government agencies have wasted taxpayer money that way for years.

Amid jeers, Chicago State pays president $600,000 to leave, names interim leader

Amid jeers, Chicago State pays president $600,000 to leave, names interim leader

Last year, Rauner signed a bill that limited community college contract buyouts to no more than one year of salary and benefits. That came after College of DuPage trustees approved an egregious $763,000 severance buyout for former President Robert Breuder.

Legislators, time to extend that limit to CSU and the other four-year colleges. No more golden parachutes courtesy of Illinois taxpayers.

But first things first: CSU board members who voted to remove Calhoun, you owe CSU students, teachers — and community members — an explanation. And then you owe them a resignation letter.

Join the discussion on Twitter @Trib_Ed_Board and on Facebook.

Monday, September 12, 2016

August 06, 2016 Editorial: Budget mess sinking higher ed in Illinois

By Crain's Editorial Board

When Bruce Rauner was running for governor in 2014, he vowed he'd boost state spending on higher education while warning he'd also work with university administrators to reduce spending on overhead. Since moving to Springfield, Rauner has, euphemistically speaking, worked with public universities from one end of the state to the other to cut expenditures. If only he were true to his full promise.

Higher education in Illinois is withering. And if the state's schools aren't rescued soon, the damage could be profound and permanent.

Illinois has come a long way since the bleak days of the Rust Belt recession 35 years ago. A third of adults over 25 have a bachelor's degree or better in Illinois today; in metro Chicago, the share has risen even more, to 36 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. That's good. Though college isn't for everyone, the best-paying and most secure jobs are reserved for people with college degrees. If Illinois is going to thrive in the digital economy, it will need a highly educated workforce.

Rauner and the Democratic do-nothings in the General Assembly, however, seem bound and determined to deny us that. Their stopgap state budget restored funding for student grants in the previous academic year but set aside no money for grants in the fall semester, which is just a few weeks away. Altogether, the six-month budget gives higher ed $1.6 billion over 18 months. That's less than the $1.9 billion it received in the 12 months ended June 30.

It's no wonder that more Illinois high school graduates are enrolling in out-of-state schools, which can offer guaranteed aid packages. It's also no wonder that, as Crain's reported Aug. 1, professors are leaving in droves, even trading tenured positions here for nontenured jobs where they won't have to worry about what new cuts will be forced on public universities on Jan. 1, when the money runs out again. Once we lose our best and brightest to other states, we may never get them back.

We're picking on Rauner here because he broke his word. But House Speaker Michael Madigan and Senate President John Cullerton are his duty-shirking enablers. What all three need to do is agree on a real state budget that provides the state's universities with the money they deserve and Illinois the workers it can't live without.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160806/ISSUE07/308069997/illinois-budget-mess-is-sinking-higher-education

Friday, August 26, 2016

Illinois Pension Costs

Illinois pension fund lowers investment rate, hikes state payment

August 26, 2016

(Adds TRS statement, Rauner spokesman's comments)

CHICAGO, Aug 26 (Reuters) - Illinois faces a big increase in its future pension contributions after the state's largest public retirement system on Friday lowered its assumed investment rate of return to 7 percent from 7.5 percent.

The vote by the Teachers' Retirement System (TRS) board to lower the rate will trigger an increase in the state's fiscal 2018 payment, according to a statement from the retirement system. The board acted on recommendations from its actuarial consultant.

For fiscal 2017, the lowered rate would have increased the state's contribution to TRS by an estimated $421 million to $4.3 billion, the statement said.

Top officials in Republican Governor Bruce Rauner's administration had tried to head off the vote, warning of a "devastating impact" on the cash-strapped state's ability to fund social services and education.

An impasse between Rauner and Democrats who control the legislature left the nation's fifth-largest state without a full fiscal 2016 budget and only a six-month fiscal 2017 spending plan that is projected to result in a record-setting $7.8 billion funding gap.

"Illinois taxpayers including our social service providers and small business owners were just handed a bill for nearly a half-billion dollars," Rauner spokesman Lance Trover said in a statement.

He added that "questions remain about the legality of today's action," alluding to concerns raised by Rauner's deputy general counsel that TRS' revised meeting agenda containing the rate change as a voting measure did not comply with the state's open meetings act's 48-hour posting requirement.

TRS Executive Director Dick Ingram disputed there was any violation. He said the board has a fiduciary obligation to do "what is best for the financial sustainability" of the fund and that its action to lower the rate can be overridden by the Illinois Legislature.

"While some seem to think otherwise, nothing we are considering today is precipitate or rushed," Ingram told the board before the vote.

The rate cut was the third by TRS since 2012 and Ingram said he expected the board to consider yet another one in the spring.

Illinois' total fiscal 2017 pension payment to its five retirement systems was pegged at $7.9 billion, up from $7.617 billion in fiscal 2016 and $6.9 billion in fiscal 2015, according to a March bipartisan legislative commission report.

Illinois' unfunded pension liability stood at $111 billion at the end of fiscal 2015, with TRS accounting for more than 55 percent of that gap. The funded ratio was a weak 41.9 percent.

(Reporting by Karen Pierog and Dave McKinney; editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Matthew Lewis)

Above is from:  http://finance.yahoo.com/news/illinois-pension-fund-lowers-investment-220729543.html;_ylt=A0LEVvSo7cBXhgsArA0PxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTByMjB0aG5zBGNvbG8DYmYxBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDBHNlYwNzYw--

Accreditation of for-profit colleges

ITT Tech Campuses Look Doomed After Education Department Sanctions

In what could spell the end for yet another for-profit giant, the U.S. Department of Education Thursday announced that the operator of ITT Technical Institute campuses can no longer enroll students who rely on federal loans to cover tuition.

The move comes after mounting concerns about the administrative capacity, finances, recruitment tactics, and graduation and job placement rates of ITT Educational Services, Inc., as well as the company's overall ability to serve its students

“Our responsibility is first and foremost to protect students and taxpayers,” Education Secretary John King said in a statement. “Looking at all of the risk factors, it’s clear that we need increased financial protection and that it simply would not be responsible or in the best interest of students to allow ITT to continue enrolling new students who rely on federal student aid funds.”

In addition to no longer enrolling students who rely on federal aid, ITT is also prohibited from awarding raises or bonuses or making retention and severance payments to its executives. It’s also required within 30 days to increase its existing surety from $94 million to $247 million – equating to 40 percent of all Title IV federal aid it received in 2015. The funds will be held by the Education Department and used for reimbursement should ITT close campuses.

In addition, ITT must develop what’s known as “teach-out agreements” with other colleges in order to provide students with opportunities to complete their studies should ITT cease operating.

“At this moment ITT poses a big risk to students and taxpayers,” Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said on a Thursday press call. “Millions of dollars in taxpayer money and tens of thousands of students are in jeopardy.”

Since August 2014, ITT has been under what officials described as "intense" financial and operational oversight by the Education Department. The company operates over 130 campuses in 38 states, and approximately 45,000 students were enrolled in its programs last year.

The Education Department's latest action comes after the school’s accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, determined that ITT “is not in compliance, and is unlikely to become in compliance with" the organization's criteria.

Notably, the accrediting organization – the largest such overseer of for-profit schools – is on the chopping block itself. In June, a federal panel voted to shut it down – a move that if completed would eliminate access to federal financial aid for hundreds of schools that enroll around 800,000 students.

Under the announcement made Thursday regarding ITT, current students are allowed to remain enrolled in classes and can continue to seek federal aid, education officials said. Alternately, they can try to transfer existing credits to a new institution, or pause their studies.

If a school they're attending closes, officials said students may be eligible for a federal loan discharge.

“We don’t take these actions lightly,” King said on Thursday's press call. “It simply would not be responsible to allow ITT to continue enrolling new students who rely on federal financial aid. These actions are sweeping and will significantly alter ITT’s acting practices.”

In responding to a question from reporter about whether the intent of the Education Department’s decision was to shut down ITT – similar to how its regulation regarding Corinthian Colleges greatly contributed to that for-profit operator's demise – King demurred.

“Institutions do sometimes close and the department has in place procedures for managing school closures,” King said. “But these actions are designed simply to protect taxpayers and students.”

ITT did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication

Above is from:  http://www.msn.com/en-us/money/companies/itt-tech-campuses-look-doomed-after-education-department-sanctions/ar-BBw3UwA?ocid=spartandhp

 

Regulators Vote to Shut Down Nation's Largest For-Profit Accrediting Agency

The vote came after widespread criticism that the agency had provided inadequate oversight.

By Lauren Camera | Education Reporter June 23, 2016, at 7:57 p.m.

In a huge victory for opponents of for-profit schools, a federal panel voted Thursday to shut down the largest accrediting agency of private sector colleges and universities amid intense criticism in recent years for loose oversight of educational institutions.

The 10-3 decision, handed down Thursday by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, effectively eliminates access to federal financial aid to hundreds of schools accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools that enroll nearly 800,000 students.



ACICS officials blasted the decision.

"For better or worse we have become the subject of intense political and public scrutiny and we believe many of the public comments directed to ACICS are not well founded," said Anthony Bieda, executive in charge at ACICS during his testimony.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, warned during testimony that the revocation of ACICS’ authority would amount to a collapse of post-secondary vocational training in the U.S.

In total, the Department of Education recognizes 37 accrediting agencies that act as gatekeepers to the federal student loan system. Those agencies review colleges based on a variety of issues, including academic quality, personnel, instructional resources and many others. Using that information, the agencies approve or deny schools access to federal financial aid benefits.

ACICS, which approves about 725 institutions and last year oversaw $3.3 billion in federal financial aid, has accredited schools including the now-shuttered Corinthian Colleges.

In fact, according to an analysis from the Center for American Progress, from 2010 to 2015, the ACICS in 90 instances approved and named schools to its honor roll around the same time they were under investigation. The companies that owned those schools, which took in more than $5.7 billion in federal funds over the past three years, represent 52 percent of all federal aid dollars received by ACICS-approved colleges during that period.

Last week the Department of Education issued a formal recommendation to eliminate ACICS altogether, outlining a 21-point list of outstanding issues that it charges the accreditor has yet to address.

The ruling is far from the final execution for the accrediting agency, which plans to appeal the decision, first to the secretary of education and then the federal courts.

Among other things, officials at the accrediting agency argued they have made a number of changes that speak to the agency’s commitment to fix past mistakes, including the creation of an ethics review board, assurances of greater accuracy regarding student achievement data and greater public disclosure.



In fact, on Wednesday, just a day before the federal accrediting agency handed down its death sentence, ACICS announced the formation of a “Special ‘Blue Ribbon’ Advisory Committee” that will conduct an in-depth examination of ACICS’ governance, standards, practices, operations, staffing, evaluator pool, support services and accreditation processes.

“ACICS is committed to enacting meaningful reforms that will demonstrate to our partners in federal and state government that we are turning over a new leaf,” Bieda said.

Those actions are too little, too late, many on the NACIQI panel underscored.

“I need to hear more than, ‘We’re creating a committee,’” said Simon Boehme, the student representative who graduated from Cornell University in 2014 and was appointed to the accrediting review board by the Education Department.

Revoking ACICS’ accrediting authority is just the latest event in a larger conversation on accreditation, for which there is broad agreement needs updating.

The Department of Education has called on accrediting agencies to beef up their review of colleges and universities, just as lawmakers have called on the department to step up its review of accreditors.

Undersecretary Ted Mitchell, the Education Department's point person for higher education, has said the department is hamstrung because it cannot strengthen the system without Congress updating the Higher Education Act, which lawmakers are working on but likely won't be able to pass until after the presidential election.

“The only way to ensure the system works – to truly give us assurance that institutions are serving students well – is to have an accreditation process that allows the flexibility for innovation and the rigor to hold institutions accountable,” Mitchell said during opening remarks Wednesday at the NACIQI panel. “And the only way to do that is to focus on outcomes.”

And that’s exactly what the Education Department has been trying to do around the edges.

In November, it announced plans to make public the standards that every accreditor uses when evaluating student outcomes and require accreditors to submit the letters they send colleges and universities when they're put on probation.

“When we see schools provide extremely poor outcomes for students – or even commit fraud – while maintaining accreditation, that is a black mark on the entire field,” Mitchell said. “The presence of poor players taints the reputation of all accreditors and raises questions about the value of accreditation as a whole – that should be as troubling to the accreditation community as it is to us.”



But critics argue that too often the administration’s focus on outcomes – both in the accreditation space and elsewhere in the higher education space – unfairly targets for-profit colleges and ignores similar intransigencies at other types of colleges and universities.

Case in point: A new report from Third Way, a nonpartisan policy think tank in Washington, D.C., shows that nearly half of students enrolled in four-year private, nonprofit colleges aren’t graduating. And many of those who do graduate aren’t earning sufficient incomes even years after completion and are unable to repay their loans.

To be sure, the NACIQI panelists, and even the representative from the Education Department, agreed that the steps ACICS outlined to fix its problems are good corrective actions. They also acknowledged that the accrediting agency has, to some extent, been held hostage by bad actors in the for-profit sector that wage legal battles against the accreditor every time it attempts to sanction them.

“I don’t want anyone to think that this is just an evil agency,” said Steve Porcelli, who presented the Education Department’s recommendation. “That’s not the case. It’s very complicated.”

But ultimately, the panelists decided, the totality and severity of past and ongoing issues outweighed the possibility of the accrediting agency re-establishing itself successfully.

As panelist Paul LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, asked: “Are we being asked to believe that the team that oversaw this systematic failure will be the team to turn it around?”

Lauren Camera Education Reporter

Lauren Camera is an education reporter at U.S. News & World Report. She’s covered education policy and politics for nearly a decade and has written for Education Week, The Hechinger Report, Congressional Quarterly, Roll Call, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. She was a 2013 Spencer Education Fellow at Columbia University’s School of Journalism, where she conducted a reporting project about the impact of the Obama administration’s competitive education grant, Race to the Top.

The June article is from:  http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-06-23/reglators-vote-to-shut-down-nations-largest-for-profit-accrediting-agency

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

NLRB rules that grad students are employees, opens door to unionization

In a major decision that opens the door for graduate students across the country to unionize, the National Labor Relations Board ruled Tuesday that grad students who work as teaching and research assistants are employees covered by federal labor laws.

The 3-1 decision — which stems from a petition filed by a group of graduate students at Columbia University in New York who wished to join the United Auto Workers union — reverses a 2004 decision involving Rhode Island's Brown University that had held that grad students are not employees because they are primarily students.

The majority wrote that the Brown decision "deprived an entire category of workers of the protections of the (National Labor Relations) Act without a convincing justification."

The decision states: "The Board has the statutory authority to treat student assistants as statutory employees, where they perform work, at the direction of the university, for which they are compensated. Statutory coverage is permitted by virtue of an employment relationship; it is not foreclosed by the existence of some other, additional relationship that the Act does not reach."

Above is from:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/ct-nlrb-grad-students-unionize-0824-biz-20160823-story.html

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Jarid Funderburg appoint to RVC board

Rock Valley College Board of Trustees Fills Vacancy

Posted: Monday, August 15, 2016

Media Contact: RVC Public Relations, 815-921-4510

The Rock Valley College Board of Trustees this evening announced the appointment of Jarid Funderburg to the seat vacated by Frank Haney’s resignation, which was accepted by the board at its July 27, 2016, meeting.

Mr. Funderburg is the Executive Director of Growth Dimensions, a Boone County and Belvidere, Illinois economic development corporation.

Mr. Funderburg was sworn it at a special meeting of the Board of Trustees on August 15, 2016, to fill the unexpired term. The seat will be open for election along with two other expiring terms in April 2017.

Above is from:  http://www.rockvalleycollege.edu/News/Article.cfm?customel_datapageid_9035=185062

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The great success of Vision 100 continues to advertised by UNICOM-ARC

The Marketing firm UNICOM-ARC continues to use District 100 as one of five great accomplishments in the realm of school referendum.  Very interesting Dr. Schlomann just spent $12,000 with the company to begin an April 2017 referendum in his current school district/,  St. Charles District 303.

 SEE:   http://www.kcchronicle.com/2016/06/17/survey-results-sway-st-charles-school-board-away-from-november-referendum/a5d9hpx/

 

Client: Belvidere Community Unit School           District 100
Challenge: The City of Belvidere, an eastern suburb of Rockford, Illinois was becoming a far west suburb of Chicago. As a result, school enrollment was exploding. Unfortunately, the District was plagued with the same kind of electoral problems facing many of the Districts in the Rockford area: multiple losses at the polls by margins at or exceeding two to one.
Solution: A community engagement program was used to generate community understanding and support for a second high school and additional facility improvements. Following that program, UNICOM•ARC worked with “Citizens with a Vision” in developing an aggressive campaign that involved extensive door-to-door direct voter contact programs, distribution of an informational video (reproduced on DVD), direct mail, movie theater slides, television advertising and automated phone calls. Following the election, the District was able to build a second high school and another elementary school and embark on the second phase of its long term plan for improving the schools.

Above is from:  http://www.unicomarc.com/electionsstories.php

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

DePaul in Spotlight after controversial speaker and new President is being searched by the school—any connection?

image

In recent days, Minster, a freshman and vice president of the DePaul College Republicans, has become accustomed to other labels: “racist,” “white supremacist.”

The group drew the fury of activists after they invited the conservative online writer Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on May 24. Protesters stormed the stage, ultimately forcing Yiannopoulos and his hosts to abandon the student center’s auditorium, the first time current college administrators could recall such an ending to a campus event.

Students who attended were furious that security didn’t give the protesters the boot, while others were enraged that Yiannopoulos — who delights in mocking feminists and civil rights activists, among others — was allowed to speak on campus at all.

In a June 2 email to the entire university community, DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider wrote: “I am deeply sorry for the harm that was unleashed by a speaker whose intent was to ignite racial tensions and demean those most marginalized, both in our society and at DePaul.”

Holtschneider noted concerns from earlier in the year of black students “growing weary of the racism they found at DePaul.” But the president, promising to put together a task force to look at speech on campus, said “the bar on free speech is extremely high at a university.”

In its May 31 edition, The DePaulia student newspaper devoted eight of nine news pages to the Yiannopoulos event and the fallout from it, with the paper’s editor in chief, Matthew Paras, describing it as the biggest breaking news story on campus during his five years at the publication.

The incident has dramatically raised the profile of an organization that sometimes has difficulty filling a small college classroom for its weekly meetings.

“We typically get a lot of people who come in and out,” Minster, who is studying economics, said during a chat at the student center.

“Or they just don’t want to be seen with us,” joked Nicole Been, 21, president of the Republican group.

Perhaps even less so now.

Been, who is from Orland Park and calls herself a strong Donald Trump supporter, said she’s been getting a lot of “mean looks” on campus.

“Just a few days ago, me and my friend were walking . . . and people started following us and yelling, ‘white supremacist,’ ‘racist,’ ” said Been, an education major. “People started following me to the quad. I was not looking my best that day, and I was surprised they recognized me.”

Been and Minster said they expected protesters when their group invited Yiannopoulos to speak. At the DePaul event, after the protesters, mostly African-Americans, took over the stage, Yiannopoulos, who is gay, said: “I worked out why there are so many black girls here. I think it’s because I f—– their brothers.”

But Minster and Been expected the campus security to remove the protesters, which didn’t happened.

The DePaul Republicans say they chose Yiannopoulos, in part, because they’d had limited success with past on-campus events.

“People would come, but they’d be on their phones,” Been said. “They weren’t real excited about it.”

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum drew about 100 people last week. About 550 people came to hear Yiannopoulos, Minster said.

“We don’t support racism, period,” Minster said. “But we do support interesting arguments that sort of challenge the norms that people think about every day at this school. DePaul prides itself on social justice, diversity and multiculturalism and all those things. So we thought it would be interesting to bring someone who is directly against all those things.”

Mario Morrow Jr., president of DePaul’s Black Student Union, said Yiannopolous clearly crosses the line: “He is promoting hate speech, making it seem OK to everyone that this is acceptable language to use, especially on a college campus built on diversity.”

Neither Minster nor Been said they plan to avoid controversial speakers for future events. They do plan to make sure they have sufficient security.

Does either have regrets about attending a college where perhaps a majority of the students don’t share their political leanings?

Both say no. They have opportunities at DePaul that they might not have at a more traditionally conservative school.

“Gov. Rauner’s people came to me and we’re like, we need to start this thing up and get him elected,” Been said. “[U.S. Sen.] Mark Kirk’s people have been reaching out to us. Opportunities are endless here because there are so few of us. So everything is at our fingertips.”

Said Minster: “I’m not looking to go to a school that might tell me exactly what I might already know. I would prefer if DePaul had a little bit more of a conservative lean than where we are now.”

“Or even just like a moderate lean,” Been added.

In recent days, Minster, a freshman and vice president of the DePaul College Republicans, has become accustomed to other labels: “racist,” “white supremacist.”

The group drew the fury of activists after they invited the conservative online writer Milo Yiannopoulos to speak on May 24. Protesters stormed the stage, ultimately forcing Yiannopoulos and his hosts to abandon the student center’s auditorium, the first time current college administrators could recall such an ending to a campus event.

Students who attended were furious that security didn’t give the protesters the boot, while others were enraged that Yiannopoulos — who delights in mocking feminists and civil rights activists, among others — was allowed to speak on campus at all.

In a June 2 email to the entire university community, DePaul President Dennis Holtschneider wrote: “I am deeply sorry for the harm that was unleashed by a speaker whose intent was to ignite racial tensions and demean those most marginalized, both in our society and at DePaul.”

Holtschneider noted concerns from earlier in the year of black students “growing weary of the racism they found at DePaul.” But the president, promising to put together a task force to look at speech on campus, said “the bar on free speech is extremely high at a university.”

In its May 31 edition, The DePaulia student newspaper devoted eight of nine news pages to the Yiannopoulos event and the fallout from it, with the paper’s editor in chief, Matthew Paras, describing it as the biggest breaking news story on campus during his five years at the publication.

The incident has dramatically raised the profile of an organization that sometimes has difficulty filling a small college classroom for its weekly meetings.

“We typically get a lot of people who come in and out,” Minster, who is studying economics, said during a chat at the student center.

“Or they just don’t want to be seen with us,” joked Nicole Been, 21, president of the Republican group.

Perhaps even less so now.

Been, who is from Orland Park and calls herself a strong Donald Trump supporter, said she’s been getting a lot of “mean looks” on campus.

“Just a few days ago, me and my friend were walking . . . and people started following us and yelling, ‘white supremacist,’ ‘racist,’ ” said Been, an education major. “People started following me to the quad. I was not looking my best that day, and I was surprised they recognized me.”

Been and Minster said they expected protesters when their group invited Yiannopoulos to speak. At the DePaul event, after the protesters, mostly African-Americans, took over the stage, Yiannopoulos, who is gay, said: “I worked out why there are so many black girls here. I think it’s because I f—– their brothers.”

But Minster and Been expected the campus security to remove the protesters, which didn’t happened.

The DePaul Republicans say they chose Yiannopoulos, in part, because they’d had limited success with past on-campus events.

“People would come, but they’d be on their phones,” Been said. “They weren’t real excited about it.”

Former U.S. senator and presidential candidate Rick Santorum drew about 100 people last week. About 550 people came to hear Yiannopoulos, Minster said.

“We don’t support racism, period,” Minster said. “But we do support interesting arguments that sort of challenge the norms that people think about every day at this school. DePaul prides itself on social justice, diversity and multiculturalism and all those things. So we thought it would be interesting to bring someone who is directly against all those things.”

Mario Morrow Jr., president of DePaul’s Black Student Union, said Yiannopolous clearly crosses the line: “He is promoting hate speech, making it seem OK to everyone that this is acceptable language to use, especially on a college campus built on diversity.”

Neither Minster nor Been said they plan to avoid controversial speakers for future events. They do plan to make sure they have sufficient security.

Does either have regrets about attending a college where perhaps a majority of the students don’t share their political leanings?

Both say no. They have opportunities at DePaul that they might not have at a more traditionally conservative school.

“Gov. Rauner’s people came to me and we’re like, we need to start this thing up and get him elected,” Been said. “[U.S. Sen.] Mark Kirk’s people have been reaching out to us. Opportunities are endless here because there are so few of us. So everything is at our fingertips.”

Said Minster: “I’m not looking to go to a school that might tell me exactly what I might already know. I would prefer if DePaul had a little bit more of a conservative lean than where we are now.”

“Or even just like a moderate lean,” Been added.

Above is from:  http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/depaul-republicans-spotlight-controversial-speaker/

 

*****************************************

DePaul University

Dear DePaul Alumni,
Yesterday, I informed the Board of Trustees that I would be stepping down as president of DePaul University at the end of the 2016-17 academic year. You are a key part of the DePaul family, and I wanted to write you as well.
My twelve years at DePaul have been blessed ones. Much of what we set out to do more than a decade ago has been accomplished. We have built or renovated facilities for all ten of DePaul's colleges, our library and many of our athletic teams. We have established over 75 new academic programs, including new colleges of Communication and Science/Health, as well as schools of hospitality and film. Every year, DePaul is becoming more of a national university instead of a regional one. Through all the change, we have stayed true to our mission of assisting those of modest means to access a life-changing education.
While there is always more to do, the current strategic plan is coming to an end. All of the buildings on the master plan have been built or are currently in construction. The campaign to fund these plans was concluded successfully. 2017 will be a natural moment in the university's life to seek new leadership and define the next set of ambitions, so I have decided to step aside so this transition can happen now.
While there has been some speculation in the press that the timing of my announcement was related to a controversial speaker that was on campus at the end of the spring quarter, in fact, my religious superior approved this decision in January, the board leadership was informed in early March and a search firm was contracted in early May. The two are entirely unrelated.
I know I will look back on my years leading DePaul with overflowing gratitude. It has been my privilege to meet thousands of alumni, and I am continually impressed with your passion for and dedication to DePaul. As an important university constituency, alumni will have an opportunity to express their views as to the desired qualities of DePaul's next president. Graduates may contribute their thoughts to the following dedicated email account: presidentsearch@depaul.edu. In your message, please indicate that you are an alumnus/a.
For more information, please see the press release issued by our board chair (http://depaulne.ws/pres). Thank you for all you have done for the university and will continue to do in the years to come. We are a stronger university because you, our alumni, love this university and support us in so many ways.
God bless you,
Rev. Dennis H. Holtschneider, C.M.
President

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rauner delivers one school message in Chicago, another Downstate

image

Tina Sfondeles

@TinaSfon | email

Fran Spielman

@fspielman | email

  A week after legislators left Springfield with no budget and no plan to fund education, Gov. Bruce Rauner began his Monday morning in Chicago, where he likened some of Chicago Public Schools to “crumbling prisons.”

By mid-day, the governor made his way to Ottawa — his third of three planned stops — where he again chose to pit Chicago against the rest of the state. There he reminded taxpayers to dial up their state representative —State Rep. Andy Skoog, a Democrat targeted by Republicans — to have him stand up against the “Chicago political machine

“They want your tax dollars to bail out Chicago,” Rauner said at an Ottawa courthouse. “That’s not right. It’s not fair to the people of LaSalle County or any other county in the state of Illinois. So we cannot allow that to happen. It’s not fair. But the super majority Democrats have said, publicly said, they want to hold up school funding. They want your schools not to open as leverage to try to force you to bail out the city of Chicago.”

The governor was met by dozens of union protesters, which forced a venue change in the town of about 18,500.

“I’m not anti-union. I’m pro-job creation, and I’m pro-taxpayer,” Rauner told the crowd, while reminding them his grandfather was a dairy farmer and union member.

It was a day of disparate messages for Rauner, who had set out to advocate for an education funding bill and a stopgap budget, but found himself calling Mayor Rahm Emanuel the “one major disappointment” during his 18-month term as governor, and also added “woeful” and “tragic” to his description of some CPS schools.

“The simple fact is that when you look objectively at the state of Chicago Public Schools, many of them are inadequate. Many of them are woeful, and some are just tragic. Many of them are basically almost crumbling prisons. They’re not a place a young person should be educated,” Rauner said.

The comments sparked outrage on Twitter, where CPS parents and students began a #notaprison campaign, detailing accomplishments at their schools.

It also brought out another Donald Trump comparison from Emanuel. Last week, Emanuel likened Rauner to the presumptive Republican presidential and condemned Rauner’s blame-game tour of the state.

On Monday, the mayor responded to Rauner comparing some CPS schools to “crumbling prisons” by escalating the war of words with his old friend, former business associate and vacation companion.

“Last week, I said his rhetoric of division and divisiveness — of targeting [and pitting] one group of people against another — was Trump-like. Now, it sounds like he’s auditioning to be Donald Trump’s running mate,” the mayor said.

Emanuel said Rauner “may have a stereotype that plays to his political philosophy, but those are not the results” in Chicago Public Schools under the mayor’s five-year watch.

“I would just say to him, ‘This is not about right-wing ideology. It’s about results.’”

“Now, I know you’re gonna try to play a political game and some rhetoric. [But] I ask all of you to do the responsible thing and put the data out about what the results are. It’s a University of Chicago report that talks about graduation rates, college attendance that are hitting remarkable highs,” the mayor said. The Sun-Times first reported the results Monday.

During his Chicago stop at technology hub 1871, Rauner talked about the failure of the General Assembly to pass a budget and said he is “deeply concerned” that schools might not open on time this fall.

While Rauner has said he’d put his “Turnaround Agenda” aside to fund education and get the state running, albeit temporary, he’s still advocating for changes in collective bargaining and workers compensation. Democrats say that will hurt the middle class. And Rauner has consistently said he won’t support a tax hike to balance the budget unless some of his favored reforms are attached.

Meanwhile, Democrats are trying to find a way to fund education and have long favored a complete reworking of the school funding formula. But for now, Rauner is pushing support for a bill to keep the doors open this fall that doesn’t include an overhaul of the formula.

Above is from:  http://chicago.suntimes.com/news/gov-rauner-calls-some-cps-schools-are-like-crumbling-prisons/

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Illinois Education Chief Decides Against Chicago Schools Takeover

Illinois Education Chief Decides Against Chicago Schools Takeover

Governor Bruce Rauner launched a probe of the nation’s third-largest school system in February.

CHICAGO, May 6 (Reuters) – Chicago’s cash-strapped public school district is not in sufficiently bad financial shape to warrant a state takeover, according to an Illinois State Board of Education staff report.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner launched a probe of the nation’s third-largest school system in February, contending it could lead to state oversight and a suspension of borrowing at debt-dependent, “junk”-rated Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

However, the report from state school Superintendent Tony Smith, posted on the board’s website ahead of a monthly meeting scheduled for Wednesday, said CPS does not meet “any of the criteria” to be certified in financial difficulty.

“The district has not realized two consecutive years of negative operating fund balances nor is it forecasted in this model,” the report stated.

It noted that negative operating balances are possible in fiscal 2018 and 2019.

“It’s clear in our analysis CPS has financial challenges and a spending problem,” state board spokeswoman Laine Evans said on Friday. “However, at this time they do not meet the criteria for certification of financial difficulty, as defined per statute. ISBE will continue to monitor the situation and the district’s finances.

The state education board’s recommendation undercuts a series of strident remarks made by Republican Rauner in January and February, asserting at one point the school system faced a “financial disaster” that would prevent it from remaining solvent through the end of its fiscal year in June.

The staff report also comes as Illinois remains in a crippling 11-month budget deadlock between Rauner and Democrats who control the state legislature. The impasse has hit the state’s higher education and social service systems particularly hard. Illinois is the only U.S. state without a full operating budget.

Rauner’s office continued to insist on Friday that CPS is in a financial mess.

“You don’t need an actuary or an accountant to know CPS has financial problems, otherwise the district wouldn’t be repeatedly asking the state for an additional half a billion dollars. It’s clear the district is in financial distress,” said Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly in a statement.

CPS said the report vindicated the district.

“This decision demonstrates that Governor Rauner’s attempts to drive CPS into bankruptcy are misguided and wrong. While CPS faces a $1 billion budget deficit next year, it can be solved if we all work together, as we are committed to doing,” said a statement from CPS spokeswoman Emily Bittner.

The deficit is mostly due to escalating annual pension payments that will reach $676 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30. The district’s efforts to gain an additional $480 million in state dollars to pay its pension bill became entangled in the ongoing impasse between Rauner and Democrats.

CPS officials, who have maintained the district is exempt under Illinois law from state oversight, are calling for a revamp of the state school funding formula to ensure poor children are not short-changed.

The decision not to declare the district in financial difficulty could suggest recognition by the Rauner-appointed state school board that it lacked proper legal footing to take over CPS in the first place, a Democratic legislative source said.

In April, Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan issued an opinion that the state lacks the authority to take control of the school system’s finances, including its ability to borrow to help fund operational costs.

Above is fromhttp://fortune.com/2016/05/07/illinois-education-chief-decides-against-chicago-schools-takeover/

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Individual Salaries at District 100

Individual teachers and administrators salaries for the 2015-2016 school year are available at:  http://www.district100.com/District/Business%20Office/Collective%20Bargaining%20Contracts/2015-16%20Administrator%20and%20Teacher%20Salary%20Compensation%20Report.pdf

For an explanation of the various lanes on the schedule go to:  http://district100watchdog.blogspot.com/2009/02/teachers-salary-schedule-revisited.html

Highly paid non-certified staff are available at: http://www.district100.com/District/Business%20Office/Collective%20Bargaining%20Contracts/2015-16%20IMRF%20Salary%20Compensation%20Report.pdf

Community invited to share ideas about Belvidere Schools


Community invited to share ideas about Belvidere Schools

 

 
What do you think are the strengths and challenges of the Belvidere School District?
What do the schools do for you, your family, or your organization?
What are your hopes for the Belvidere School District over the next five years?
 
Incoming Superintendent Dr. Daniel Woestman will be asking these and other questions during a series of conversations about the Belvidere School District.
 
Parents:  You are encouraged to attend a conversation at your child's school, but are welcome to participate in one of two conversations open to the community.
 
Conversations in English only:
April 21 from 7:40 to 8:40 a.m. at Meehan Elementary School
April 27 from 8:00 to 8:45 a.m. at Belvidere North High School
April 28 from 8:00 to 8:45 a.m. at Belvidere High School
May 3 from 8:45 to 9:40 a.m. at Belvidere South Middle School
May 4 from 7:40 to 8:40 a.m. at Perry Elementary School
May 5 from 7:40 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. at Seth Whitman Elementary School
May 9 from 8:50 to 9:40 a.m. at Belvidere Central Middle School
May 11 from 7:40 to 8:40 a.m. at Lincoln Elementary School
May 12 from 7:40 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. at Caledonia Elementary School
May 18 from 7:40 a.m. to 8:40 a.m. at Washington Academy
 
Evening conversations open to the community will be held April 27 from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Belvidere North High School and April 28 from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at Belvidere High School.
 
A conversation in Spanish will take place on May 19 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Washington Academy.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Woodstock Middle school principal pleads guilty in PTO, sports league thefts

A former middle school principal who was accused of stealing tens of thousands of dollars from two school-related funds apologized in court Thursday after pleading guilty.
Jerome Wakitsch had resigned from his job as principal of Northwood Middle School in Woodstock last August after school officials told police they suspected he'd taken the money from the school's Parent Teacher Organization and its sports league, the Fox Valley Middle School Conference.
After pleading guilty in McHenry County court to a felony forgery charge, Wakitsch turned to face a small group sitting in the courtroom and apologized.
"I'd like to say how sorry I am to the Northwood Parent Teacher Organization and the Fox Valley Middle School Conference," he said as his voice cracked. "I truly am sorry."
He is also required within a week to repay more than $18,600 to the PTO and nearly $8,000 to the athletic conference, said Assistant State's Attorney John Gibbons.
Wakitsch could have received a two- to five-year sentence on the forgery conviction. In exchange for his plea, a theft charge was dropped.
Wakitsch was accused of forging signatures on checks to make several illicit withdrawals from the funds in 2014 and 2015. Officials in Woodstock District 200 began to notice discrepancies in accounting that led them to suspect Wakitsch was stealing, Gibbons said.
"For a person in a position of trust and authority to take money that was earmarked for students is absolutely unconscionable," Gibbons said after the hearing.
Amanda Marrazzo is a freelance reporter.

Above is from:  http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/ct-middle-school-principal-pto-theft-met-20160331-story.html

Friday, March 4, 2016

Wheaton’s “fired” prof now at Virginia

image

A professor who was placed on leave at an Illinois Christian college and later agreed to part ways with the school after asserting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God is joining the faculty at the University of Virginia.

The university's Institute of Advanced Studies in Culture said Thursday in a statement Larycia Hawkins accepted a position as the Abd el-Kader Visiting Faculty Fellow. The institute says she will research relationships between religions and races.

Hawkins was teaching political science at Wheaton College when she posted her views about Muslims and Christians on Facebook and donned the headscarf worn by some Muslim women to counter what she called "vitriolic" rhetoric against Muslims.

Wheaton College announced last month that it and Hawkins reached a "confidential agreement" for her to leave.

Above is from:  http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/professor-left-illinois-christian-college-heads-uva-37371599

Thursday, March 3, 2016

After veto override fails , Madigan introduces new higher ed funding plan

Dan Petrella The Southern Springfield Bureau Updated 8 hrs ago 0

SPRINGFIELD -- Hours after the Illinois House failed to override Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of a higher education funding bill, the chamber’s Democratic leader announced a new plan to fund universities, community colleges and grants to low-income students -- along with several human services programs.

The House will be asked Thursday to consider a bill that would fund the programs at the same levels as the General Assembly approved in May, said Steve Brown, a spokesman for House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago. That funding is tied to another measure that would do away with a requirement that the state repay within 18 months about $450 million that was borrowed from special funds to plug holes in last year’s budget.

Funding for higher education and some human services has been caught up in a deadlock between Rauner and Democratic leaders in the Legislature, now in its ninth month.

Brown called the plan announced Wednesday evening “a new compromise effort that contains an agreed funding source.”

The bill Rauner vetoed would have spent $721.5 million on grants for low-income students through the Monetary Award Program and operations at community colleges. Republicans in the House and Senate, none of whom voted to buck the governor, criticized the Democratic-backed bill because they said there was no way to pay for it.

Rep. Terri Bryant, R-Murphysboro, who represents Southern Illinois University Carbondale, called it “a hoax.”

“It’s a lie,” Bryant said. “It’s smoke and mirrors.”

Rep. Dan Brady, R-Bloomington, who represents Illinois State University, likened it to trying to save someone who’s drowning.

“You’d throw that person a life jacket, but you wouldn’t throw them a life jacket that had no material in it to keep them and the life jacket afloat,” Brady said.

They and other Republicans argued that lawmakers should consider proposals they’ve made, which they said include funding for public universities and ways to pay the associated expenses.

One GOP-backed proposal, which Rauner expressed support for earlier this week, would free up money for emergency funding to universities and community colleges by doing away with the special fund repayment requirement.

Noting the Rauner’s support for the concept, Brown said, “We’ll try to meet the governor partway.”

Earlier in the day, Rep. Kelly Burke, D-Evergreen Park, the vetoed bill’s House sponsor, argued that funding MAP grants and community colleges was a good first step toward funding the entire higher education system.

“I hear some concerns from the other side that somehow this is bad for taxpayers,” Burke said. “I’ll tell you what’s bad for taxpayers: closing universities, shutting down the higher education system, limiting access to universities.

“Students are taxpayers. The folks who work at universities are taxpayers. The people who live in towns that are supported by institutions, such as Carbondale, DeKalb, Macomb, Charleston, Champaign, Urbana, Chicago, University Park, Bloomington, those folks are taxpayers too, and when their biggest economic engine in those areas goes down or suffers because of the crippling effect of our inaction, we’re going to hear from (them).”

Ultimately, the House fell two votes short of overriding Rauner’s veto, with Rep. Scott Drury, D-Highwood, voting against the proposal and Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, absent. That followed a successful override vote in the Senate.

After the House vote, Rauner’s office praised Republican lawmakers and Drury for “standing up for taxpayers today.”

“Despite the Governor's request that the General Assembly not waste time with a political vote that was never going to pass, the legislature is poised to leave students, universities and community colleges in the lurch for at least a month,” spokeswoman Catherine Kelly said in a prepared statement. “We continue to urge Democratic leaders not to recess until the General Assembly passes a bipartisan proposal to fund MAP (grants) and higher education.”

With primaries coming March 15, the House is scheduled to leave town after Thursday’s session and not reconvene until April.

Above is from:  http://thesouthern.com/news/local/govt-and-politics/house-fails-to-override-rauner-s-veto-of-higher-education/article_de57f715-2339-5408-a82d-167050905675.html

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Harrison School District 36 (Wonder Lake, McHenry County) to refund $127,000 in tax lawsuit settlement

Harrison School District 36 to refund $127,000 in tax lawsuit settlement

Published: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 5:18 p.m. CST • Updated: Wednesday, March 2, 2016 12:45 a.m. CST

 

By ALLISON GOODRICH - agoodrich@shawmedia.com

WONDER LAKE – A group of McHenry County residents will be refunded part of their property taxes paid to Harrison School District 36, according to a settlement that brought the district's involvement in a tax objection lawsuit to an end.

In total, $123,071.54 will be refunded to District 36 taxpayers, according to the settlement agreement, obtained by the Northwest Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The transportation fund is being refunded because that is the one that was over," District 36 Superintendent Sue Wings said.

Represented by Timothy Dwyer of the St. Charles-based Dwyer Law Office, the 132 plaintiffs challenged the district's entire 2014 levy, but specifically named the transportation fund levy of $1.8 million, court documents said.

McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller said she will be refunding the money by deducting it from District 36's tax revenue distributions. She expects taxpayers will receive refunds by late May or early June.

"This impacts us in the sense that we're going to lose those funds, but we want to be cognizant of the fact that we're not here to take taxpayer dollars if we don't have to," Wings said.

Moving forward, this is something the district will be more attentive about, she added.

"Very much so," Wings said. "We've actually started putting a plan in place to stop that from happening. We've looked at different ways we can receive funding, whether through fundraising, grants or just cutting costs."

This year, the District 36 board approved a reduced property tax levy of an estimated $3.73 million compared to last year's $4.56 million, she added.

District 36 was named in the November 2015 suit along with Community High School District 155, Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, Algonquin Township, Algonquin Road District, McHenry Township and McHenry Road District.

In such lawsuits, the county treasurer and collector – in this case, Miller – is named as a defendant, but the independent taxing entities are the “real party interests,” Dwyer has said.

The settlement, which took about a month and half to reach, has satisfied at least the few plaintiffs he has spoken with since, Dwyer said.

As for the other two school districts, he said there have been a couple procedural court appearances.

"[Their lawyers] have filed some motions, and I'm going to amend the complaints," Dwyer said, declining to specify what amendments might be made.

District 47 officials said the district would not be commenting on the lawsuit, and District 155 officials did not return calls for comment.

(Continued from Page 1)

WONDER LAKE – A group of McHenry County residents will be refunded part of their property taxes paid to Harrison School District 36, according to a settlement that brought the district's involvement in a tax objection lawsuit to an end.

In total, $123,071.54 will be refunded to District 36 taxpayers, according to the settlement agreement, obtained by the Northwest Herald under the Freedom of Information Act.

"The transportation fund is being refunded because that is the one that was over," District 36 Superintendent Sue Wings said.

Represented by Timothy Dwyer of the St. Charles-based Dwyer Law Office, the 132 plaintiffs challenged the district's entire 2014 levy, but specifically named the transportation fund levy of $1.8 million, court documents said.

McHenry County Treasurer Glenda Miller said she will be refunding the money by deducting it from District 36's tax revenue distributions. She expects taxpayers will receive refunds by late May or early June.

"This impacts us in the sense that we're going to lose those funds, but we want to be cognizant of the fact that we're not here to take taxpayer dollars if we don't have to," Wings said.

Moving forward, this is something the district will be more attentive about, she added.

"Very much so," Wings said. "We've actually started putting a plan in place to stop that from happening. We've looked at different ways we can receive funding, whether through fundraising, grants or just cutting costs."

This year, the District 36 board approved a reduced property tax levy of an estimated $3.73 million compared to last year's $4.56 million, she added.

District 36 was named in the November 2015 suit along with Community High School District 155, Crystal Lake Elementary School District 47, Algonquin Township, Algonquin Road District, McHenry Township and McHenry Road District.

In such lawsuits, the county treasurer and collector – in this case, Miller – is named as a defendant, but the independent taxing entities are the “real party interests,” Dwyer has said.

The settlement, which took about a month and half to reach, has satisfied at least the few plaintiffs he has spoken with since, Dwyer said.

As for the other two school districts, he said there have been a couple procedural court appearances.

"[Their lawyers] have filed some motions, and I'm going to amend the complaints," Dwyer said, declining to specify what amendments might be made.

District 47 officials said the district would not be commenting on the lawsuit, and District 155 officials did not return calls for comment.

A status hearing for the case is scheduled for 9 a.m. April 12 before Judge Thomas A. Meyer.

Above is from:  http://www.nwherald.com/2016/02/29/harrison-school-district-36-to-refund-127-000-in-tax-lawsuit-settlement/a9vmjer/?page=2

Friday, February 26, 2016

Universities given credit downgrade

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 7:00am | Julie Wurth

Several beleaguered Illinois universities took another hit this week, with Moody's Investor Service downgrading their credit ratings because of the ongoing state budget crisis.

Northern Illinois University and Northeastern Illinois University saw their ratings lowered to Baa2 and Baa3, just above "speculative" or "junk bond" status, while Eastern Illinois University is now below investment grade, dropping from Baa3 to Ba1 and Ba3.

The ratings range from a high of Aaa, or "prime," to C, which signals default.

Schools use the bond market to borrow money for new classroom buildings, laboratories or residence halls, or just to consolidate debt. They secure the loans with student fees, housing payments, clinic income or other sources of money.

The lower the bond rating, the higher the interest rate will be for the schools to pay back that money. Ideally, schools want a high rating so they can borrow at a cheaper rate and keep their overall debt low.

"Without state money coming in, this would be what's expected over time, that the financial situation of these institutions will continue to erode, and the bond markets will continue to notice that," UI education finance Professor Jennifer Delaney said of Wednesday's announcement by Moody's. "In general, it's a signal to the market and also, frankly, the students and families about the financial health of the institutions."

All state public universities continue to carry a "negative outlook" from Moody's, which means that further downgrades could be likely depending on what happens with the state budget.

Moody's cited Eastern's "increasing vulnerability to the ongoing state budget impasse given its thin liquidity, declining enrollment and high reliance on state funding." The school's reserves are expected to be exhausted by the end of the fiscal year on June 30, Moody's said.

Moody's again affirmed the UI's credit ratings, with a negative outlook. The rating affects about $1.6 billion in debt held by the university, for its auxiliary facilities system (Aa3), which includes the State Farm Center and residence halls; certificates of participation (Aa3); south campus development bonds in Chicago (A1); and health services facilities system in Chicago (A2).

The affirmation reflects the UI's "very good liquidity that provides it with significant flexibility to manage the lack of direct state funding as the state budget impasse continues," Moody's said.

Other factors in the UI's favor: strong student demand, more than $5.5 billion in revenues from diverse sources, and a favorable balance sheet with a "modest" debt burden. But Moody's noted that the UI is constrained by the state's financial challenges, and a growing amount of its state appropriation is consumed by pensions and other benefits, "pressuring the university's core educational and general budget."

Analysts also expect "some weakening of operating cash flow" at the UI this fiscal year.

Moody's affirmed its previous ratings for Southern Illinois University (Baa1) and Western Illinois Univeristy (Baa3).

The ratings agency assigned an A3 to Illinois State University's upcoming $40 million revenue bond sale for its auxiliary facilities system and affirmed ISU's previous A3 ratings. Analysts cited strong reserves and debt-service coverage for the system, and noted that ISU is "one of the state's largest public universities with a strong regional reputation and fiscal stewardship."

The school has sufficient reserves and endowment funds to mitigate the state's budget impasse for now, and also has stable enrollment, Moody's said.

For Northern, the downgrade is based on the expectation of weakening cash flow and liquidity without state appropriations. Moody's said the ratings reflect actions taken by Northern to trim expenses and "carefully manage liquidity cope with the state budget impasse," and its position as one of Illinois' largest regional public universities with diverse academic offerings.

But analysts also said its cash flow will continue to narrow because of enrollment declines, and cited its "relatively modest" reserves.

Northeastern's financial liquidity puts it in a better position to weather cuts than some of its peers, Moody's said, but that's offset by a decline in its operating performance and the state funding delay. The Chicago school, which has a large Hispanic population, is hoping that opening its first residence hall in 2016 will boost its market profile but early demand has been "weak," Moody's said.

Above is from:  http://www.news-gazette.com/news/local/2016-02-26/universities-given-credit-downgrade.html