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

Rauner Seeks to Victimize Those Seeking Advancement

February 21, 2016 / Fred Klonsky

Rauner: Moving from victimizing the marginalized to those seeking advancement…

Over 125,000 university level students in Illinois – students who have met the criteria for receiving financial assistance as they struggle to advance financially and vocationally – will no longer be provided with the support they so desperately need after Bruce Rauner vetoed the MAP Grant Funding Bill on February 19th, 2016.

You might not be aware what MAP Grants are for the students and many others who qualify under the careful watch of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission and the federally operated Free Application for Student Aid.

So, what is a Map Grant?

MAP Fund money is Monetary Assistance Program money delivered to individuals meeting federally determined timelines and requirements for state monies to be used for educational purposes in secondary settings – in Illinois, university settings. The timelines and threshold for meeting these requirements are firm and stringent; and the state program’s total $721 million bill is often utilized quickly. In fact, the amount of money set aside for this important gateway to further the education of those in demand of assistance has by and large remained sadly static over the last years. On the other hand, the needs in our grinding economy have increased exponentially.

By the way, every state has its own version of this program.

In Illinois, the most an expectant recipient can expect to receive is less than $4800 in eventual maximum awards. As a grant, the money provided is considered an investment on the part of the state for further benefits in return of employments, taxation, etc. It is not a loan.
On the other hand, students seeking MAP grants are likely carrying loan debt as well. Education may be the path into a higher earning position in life, but it does not come cheaply.  

MAP Grants might sound like a free offering that could be easily rigged; however, under the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, worthy and needy students seeking financial assistance in the state are provided tuition money only if they meet certain requirements, such as: state and federal citizenship, documentable financial need, enrollment in an approved educational system for a minimum of hours, compliance with Social Service System registration, a maintained history of satisfactory academic progress, no default in any other loans (private or public), and having fallen short of the maximum 75 hours of MAP hour credits.

In Rauner’s State of the Budget speech on February 17th, the Governor promised his audience, ”If we do this (follow his ideological turnaround agenda)– if we come together to fix our long-term challenges – we will deliver world class education to every child in Illinois – no matter where they live or where they came from.

Sadly, less than three days after this conditional ultimatum to the General Assembly, Rauner vetoed any money to be provided the current MAP Program.

So much for “world class.”

Recall also that Governor Rauner has anointed himself as the protector of the Middle Class and its workers, swearing to correct their inability to recover from a state-specific economic depression due to his Democratic enemies’ refusal to provide for the recovery of workers who seek retooling and an escape from union control.

However, more than just students are involved in this veto.

A significant portion of the MAP Funding also delivers financial assistance to those dislocated workers in our state seeking just the kind of re-education and learning that the Governor likes to describe as integral to his “turnaround plan.”  Makin' sure our workers are as ready to work as ones in Indiana.

Rauner describes his recent veto of funds to help dislocated workers and needy students as necessary to alleviate some of the pain felt by the current targets of his cutting – the deeply marginalized and those dependent on dwindling sisal services.
Now he has turned his axe-wielding severity to those who might work to get ahead – and those trying to rejoin or maintain a life in the middle class.

“I would encourage the students to stay and see if they can be patient and persistent along with us,” Rauner said. He also vowed if given the authority to make cuts in the budget, he would find the money to pay most of what’s needed for student grants and public universities.” (Chicago Tribune – Feb. 21, 2016)

It was the indigent earlier who became pawns in this brinkmanship between Rauner and the General Assembly. Now it moves up to those with some hope. I wonder who’s next?

Above is from:  http://pension-vocabulary.blogspot.com/2016/02/runer-seeks-to-victimize-those-seeking.html

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mastroianni to retire as RVC President

  • was sad to read of Rock Valley College President Mike Mastroianni's decision to retire from his job in January 2017. The 18-year employee of the college, who served in a variety of positions, has been president since 2014.
    He's packed a whole lot of action into those three years. Under his tenure, guided by a strong, independent and forward-thinking board, Mastroianni oversaw building of the greatly expanded Aviation Maintenance Technology building at Chicago Rockford International Airport, where students are learning aviation-related skills that will lead them into well-paying careers, perhaps just a few yards away at AAR Corp.'s new maintenance, repair and overhaul twin hangars. Five hundred will be hired initially; the number of employees could double in a few years.
  • AR has promised to interview RVC aviation graduates.
    Under Mastroianni, RVC's new, downtown Rockford campus is being constructed on the second floor of the News Tower. They sure are making a lot of noise upstairs!
    RVC and Northern Illinois University announced Tuesday an engineering partnership that will begin classes this fall.
    Finally, the Health sciences Center will start classes in 2017.
    That's a heck of a lot of work! Mastroianni deserves our heartfelt congratulations for a job well done.
    As the board begins its search for a new leader, I hope trustees will look for someone who will continue in the Mastroianni mold. Moving RVC forward is difficult right now, with state funding grinding to a halt, MAP grants ended and student enrollment down. Those are temporary situations, though.
    RVC is vitally important to the region's future, and the next college president has to believe in the mission the board has set for it.
    Chuck Sweeny: 815-987-1366; csweeny@rrstar.com; @chucksweeny
  • Above is from (see second half of:  http://www.rrstar.com/news/20160224/chuck-sweeny-state-rep-john-cabello-introduces-illinois-police-chase-bill/?Start=2

    Tuesday, February 23, 2016

    Gov. Rauner Threatens to Choke CPS Borrowing

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    Gov. Rauner Threatens to Choke CPS Borrowing

    Paris Schutz | February 22, 2016 4:50 pm

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    Gov. Bruce Rauner says the State Board of Education is preparing for a takeover of Chicago Public Schools, even though he acknowledges that lawmakers would have to pass a bill to allow that to happen.

    But there is another avenue the state can take to exert control over CPS without any further approval, Rauner said Monday. CPS Chief Forrest Claypool immediately fought back and said the real problem is the lack of funding from the state.

    The governor says the State Board of Education can decide to block CPS from any further borrowing or bond issues if it deems the system is in financial difficulty.

    The governor says the state is well within its bounds to do this now – it is part of the investigation he says the State Board of Education has launched into CPS’ finances. He acknowledged that a full on state takeover and bankruptcy is not yet possible, but has introduced legislation with other Republican leaders to make it possible.

    Many believed the governor did that on purpose to help scare the bond markets and drive up the costs on a recent borrowing deal. But the governor says the state can simply block Chicago Public Schools itself from borrowing any more money.

    “Contrary to what some elected officials have said, when they’ve accused me of trying to block bond offerings or making statements designed to hurt a bond offering – completely false,” he said. “The simple fact is, the State Board of Education has the right to block any debt offerings, any bond or debt offerings. The state board has never chosen to do that for the city of Chicago. I hope it never becomes necessary, but we have to be ready to take action and step in.”

    The governor’s office went on to say:

    CPS CEO Forrest Claypool says that the state can perform a financial analysis if it wants, but all of the information it seeks is public record. Beyond that, he says the governor is stepping out of bounds.

    “The governor has come up with a number of novel legal theories, but I’d refer him back to the statute,” Claypool said. “The statute is clear that the authority he seeks to exercise is not applicable to Chicago Public Schools. We welcome the governor’s concern about education. But we hope he shows the same amount of concern for all the poor children in Illinois who are suffering under this system.”

    Claypool reiterated his belief that the real cause of the CPS financial crisis is a lack of funding from the state, claiming that it gives about 70 percent of the amount of funding per pupil to CPS as it gives to the average school district in Illinois.

    The governor acknowledged he wants more state money to go to education and wants to change the formula for how money gets awarded, but he believes there is someone holding that up.

    “Speaker Madigan has resisted efforts to reform the state funding formula for many years,” Rauner said. “Democrats have created the current system and blocked changing the system for many, many years. Now, everyone’s yelling at me saying, ‘Governor, you change it.’ There’s a lot of things I want to change.”

    Democrats counter that suburban Republicans have been complicit in the past to blocking reform to the state’s funding formula.

    Follow Paris Schutz on Twitter: @paschutz

    Above is from:  http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2016/02/22/gov-rauner-threatens-choke-cps-borrowing

    Sunday, February 21, 2016

    Claypool pushes back at Rauner over CPS cash

     

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    Chicago Public Schools Bruce Rauner Forrest Claypool Government and Politics City Government State Government Politics

    By Greg Hinz on Politics More +

    You think you've got leverage on me, buddy? Well, I've got leverage, too.

    That's effectively the message from CPS chief Forrest Claypool today after Gov. Bruce Rauner's State Board of Education moved to further tighten the financial screws on cash-short CPS.

    But the message could have some complications.

    The state board overnight leaked word that it has opened a full financial review of CPS, That's a necessary prerequisite to seizing control of CPS and potentially forcing it into bankruptcy, something Rauner has been very eager to do to overturn what he views as onerous labor contracts.

    CPS' position is that Rauner and the state board lack the authority to seize control. In a phone interview today, Claypool again underlined that view.

    "He's pretended for probably the fourth time now that the statute (preventing a takeover) doesn't exist," Claypool said. "It's all part of his leverage game," with Rauner hoping to use CPS' need for cash as a cudgel to force Springfield Democrats to enact his pro-business Turnaround Illinois agenda, Claypool added.

    Then he rolled out a little bit of his own leverage.

    The fact is, while CPS wants and deserves more state aid, it can do without it for a while, Claypool said.

    Specifically, the combination of already announced cuts in CPS spending and a $725 million bond issue earlier this month over strong opposition from Rauner means that the system will have the cash to pay its bills and keep the doors open until "deep into the next school year" that begins in September, Claypool said.

    In other words, Springfield Democrats will be able to wait out Rauner a while longer — likely until the Legislature's post-election veto session in November, under the timetable Claypool suggested.

    "We've bought ourselves some time," Claypool concluded. Finances could get a little tight in July but then the district will get its second-half property tax payment, he said. "The irony is that the governor who's calling out CPS leads a state with $7 billion in bills and can't pay them."

    In the phone call, Claypool, who has been arguing that the state's current aid formula shortchanges CPS, conceded that the system's reprieve was temporary.

    He also said that "hundreds of millions of dollars" in further management efficiencies are coming but will take perhaps a year to flesh out and implement. He declined to indicate what they are but said they're not from closing more schools.

    Claypool's new message that the district has the resources to survive for some time is somewhat at odds with his earlier stance that the system faced a financial crisis.

    It also comes as the district tries to get negotiations with the Chicago Teachers Union back on track. CTU President Karen Lewis agreed to submit to her members a contract with $400 million in concessions, mostly increased payments by members for their pensions. The union's Big Bargaining Committee unanimously rejected the pact.

    The two sides have resumed talks, but CPS sources say it's not clear whether Lewis or anyone else now speaks for the membership and can deliver a deal. Now, in pushing back against Rauner, Claypool says the system has at least a little liquidity — money that the union may want.

    For what it's worth, Moody's Investors Service earlier in the week said CPS' latest moves are "credit positive." But it noted that the system still faces a $1 billion budget hole in fiscal 2017 and left its rating unchanged, at junk level.

    A Rauner spokesman declined to comment.

    Update, 2 p.m. — Rauner’s office may not be responding to Claypool, but the governor himself shows no sign of blinking either.

    WBBM-TV/Channel 2 caught up with him at an event earlier today, and the governor said it's "very likely" lawmakers eventually will cave in and give him control of CPS.

    We’ll see.

      Above is from:  http://www.chicagobusiness.com/article/20160219/BLOGS02/160219819/chicago-public-schools-chief-claypool-pushes-back-at-rauner

    Thursday, February 18, 2016

    The funding debate for schools: just a few issues

    An attempt at rebutting the governor’s CPS claims

    Thursday, Feb 18, 2016

    * From Gov. Rauner’s budget address

    We must fully fund this foundation level as a first step toward reforming our school funding formula. Our current formula doesn’t meet the needs of our children. Past attempts to fix the formula didn’t work because they pitted communities against each other.

    This year, we are already seeing this cynical strategy being deployed. After years of financial mismanagement, our largest school system is threatening a lawsuit against the state. Such a course could set back funding formula reform for years to come, and ignores reality.

    Not only did Chicago Public Schools ask for the current arrangement, they are benefiting from a special deal. CPS receives an extra $600 million more every year than school districts with similar student demographics. Any school funding reform proposal that involves taking money from one school district and giving it to another, is doomed to fail.

    OK, first of all, if a federal lawsuit is filed and the plaintiffs win based on discriminatory school funding (and we’re worst in the nation, according to Senate President John Cullerton, which leads him to believe a suit could be successful), then that’ll radically change the playing field in favor of places like Chicago.

    * Now, onto that $600 million figure. It was featured prominently in a recent Tribune op-ed by Senate Republican Leader Christine Radogno

    • Chicago has 18 percent of the state’s special education student population, but it receives 30 percent of state special education block grant funding.

    • Chicago has fewer than 19 percent of all students in the state, but it receives approximately 27 percent of the state’s personal property replacement tax paid by corporations.

    • Chicago has 30 percent of all low-income students in the state, but it receives more than 50 percent of all free breakfast and lunch dollars, 42 percent of poverty-based education funding and 37 percent of early childhood funding for at-risk students.

    • Chicago’s population accounts for 25 percent of communities that receive supplemental property tax funding, yet CPS receives 88 percent of Property Tax Extension Limitation Law (PTELL) adjustment dollars.

    All told, sweetheart deals yield CPS an additional $600 million in state education funding.

    * I asked the Senate Democrats for a response…

    Rich,

    Two docs attached.

    1 – Staff memorandum walking through legislative history that got us to the current school funding formula, along with staff’s rebuttal to Leader Radogno’s Trib op-ed from early December, and a walk up to how the SGOP maybe got to their $600 million figure

    2 – An ISBE report indicating that if CPS were treated like all other districts, they would’ve received an extra $219.3 million from the state (not $600 million)

    Both are exciting reads for a Wednesday night.

    Enjoy.

    * According to the SDEM staff memorandum, Rauner and Radogno are counting personal property replacement tax money received by both the city of Chicago and CPS. So, an argument about school funding ought to stick to school funding and not include municipal funding.

    The staff memo also points out that the PTELL adjustment formula for CPS is the same as for all other districts

    • The adjustment corrects the “double whammy” problem that existed in the GSA formula for tax capped districts:

      o Districts subject to PTELL cannot collect as much revenue as they might if they were not capped.
      o The General State Aid Foundation Grant formula assumes that they can access a certain percentage of local property wealth, which tax caps prevent, and so those districts would lose out on GSA Foundation funding.

    • The adjustment has nothing to do with enrollment in a district but instead compares the current Equalized Assessed Valuation (EAV) of the district to the EAV at the time the district was subjected to tax caps.

    The staff analysis claims that if the $58 million in PPRT was taken away from CPS, the district would get $50 million back from the foundation formula grant.

    * You think pensions are hard to understand? Try school funding.

    - Posted by Rich Miller

    Wednesday, February 17, 2016

    Rockford schools lauded for transparency

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    Letter to the Editor: RPS transparency need to inspire trust

    January 5, 2016 Staff 4757 Views

    Payments made to Stenstrom Companies are correlated with Ehren Jarrett's arrival at RPS205.PPayments made to Stenstrom Companies are correlated with Ehren Jarrett’s arrival at RPS205.

    By Allison, Maxwell and Jeffrey Wang

    In June 2015, Rockford Public School District 205 (RPS205) denied the FOIA request for a copy of a legal opinion on a potential conflict of interest. The Illinois Attorney General looked into this denial and issued an order for RPS205 to release all documents and communications regarding the opinion. On December 23, instead of engaging in legal maneuvers in court, RPS205 complied with the Attorney General and released its extensive legal analysis of Superintendent Jarrett’s conflicts of interest with Stenstrom Companies. Because of this released legal opinion, we can be assured that this ethical conundrum was properly considered by the school district. We would like to laud RPS205 for taking this positive step, and we sincerely hope that this will be part of an ongoing trend of increasing transparency from RPS205.

    RPS205’s Superintendent Ehren Jarrett is married to a majority owner of Stenstrom Companies, one of the many construction companies in Rockford. Since Superintendent Jarrett came to the school district in 2011, expenditures to Stenstrom Companies have ballooned exponentially.

    By 2014, Stenstrom Companies became the largest payee of the school district according the district’s check registry.

    In 2013, Atty. Thomas Bueschel, who has worked for the district as a contractor since the 1980s, wrote the legal opinion on potential conflicts of interest between Superintendent Jarrett and Stenstrom Companies. Using the legal opinion as a justification, RPS205 legal counsel Lori Hoadley concluded that there was no conflict of interest and Stenstrom Companies could be awarded the construction projects.

    Transparency is a vital aspect to shape any sort of discourse on public education. Before the 2014 referendum to approve the construction of new school facilities, Superintendent Jarrett appeared on TV and radio stations and promised the community that there would be no cutbacks on any educational programs or tax increases. In fact, Superintendent Jarrett had also recommended that the district should speed up the timeline of the facility plan to 2015 from 2017.

    Unfortunately, after the election, the district disclosed its budget deficit. Afterwards, the district took a heavy dose of cuts across the entire budget, including more than half of the building Reading Specialists, Bilingual Specialists, etc., according to the FY16 Budget Book. Many of these specialists have been shown in research studies to help disadvantaged students break out of the poverty cycle. These cuts come at the same time as the district has delayed the purchase of middle school math textbooks despite the fact that Illinois completely changed its curriculum to accommodate for a changing job environment. Although new buildings are an important feature of attractive schools, these do not translate into better student performance. Both Lewis Lemon and Ellis Academy have won awards for their new construction, but only 5-6 percent of their students meet the minimum state standards to date, while in 2003 Lewis Lemon’s performance was amongst the best in Rockford.

    With a potential sales tax increase coming, Rockford citizens will shoulder most of the costs for this facility plan, contrary to original statements made by RPS205. While predicting economic downturns is difficult even for the best of us, we hope that in the future, the district will be more open about how they come to their conclusions so that we as a community can be prepared for the effects of what we vote for. Thankfully, the school district has been taking measures to better inform the public. For example, after August, 2015, RPS205 started publishing its Construction Bid Pay Request Log at every board meeting, allowing the public to easily track payments between the district and various construction companies. We hope that RPS205 will continue to make encouraging progress and promote enthusiastic, informed discussions towards improving public education.

    Records mentioned in this article, including FOIA documents and the Attorney General’s order can be found at RealNorth.us/conflict-of-interest.

    Allison Wang is a high school student pursuing a research project on budgeting inefficiencies in K-12 public education.

    Maxwell Wang was an ROTC cadet from Auburn High School and is currently attending Washington University in St. Louis on a US Congress endowed Goldwater Scholarship.

    Jeffrey Wang graduated from Auburn High School and Harvard University summa cum laude and is an MD/PhD student at Stanford University.

    Above is from:  http://rockrivertimes.com/2016/01/05/letter-to-the-editor-transparency-inspires-trust/

    Thursday, February 11, 2016

    Belvidere's school board votes to have new superintendent start April 18

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    By Susan Vela
    Staff writer

    Posted Feb. 9, 2016 at 10:21 PM
    Updated Feb 9, 2016 at 11:10 PM

    BELVIDERE — The Belvidere School Board voted 7-0 Monday to have new Superintendent Daniel Woestman start sooner rather than later.
    They approved a contract addendum that will have the veteran educator take control of the approximately 8,200-student school system on April 18 rather than July 1.
    Woestman will receive prorated pay based on a three-year contract with a beginning annual salary of $175,000.
    Woestman oversees strategic planning for the Rockford School District. He is a former English teacher and Hononegah High School assistant principal.
    Belvidere schools have lost about 500 students since 2011. About half of the student population is considered low income. The district’s graduation rate was 83 percent last school year, compared to the state's 86 percent rate.

    Susan Vela: 815-987-1369; svela@rrstar.com; @susanvela

    Above is from:  http://www.rrstar.com/article/20160209/NEWS/160209503/0/SEARCH

    Sunday, February 7, 2016

    Prep roundup: Belvidere North takes 2nd at state cheerleading

    • By Rockford Register Star

    •  

    • Posted Feb. 6, 2016 at 10:20 PM

      BLOOMINGTON — Belvidere North's sectional champion cheerleading squad made a strong run at a championship during Saturday's IHSA State Finals at the U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
      The Blue Thunder finished second in the Co-Ed Division with a score of 89.43, which was 2.4 points lower than first-place Buffalo Grove (91.47). The performance is an improvement from last year when North took seventh at state.

    Saturday, February 6, 2016

    Wheaton decides not to fire professor who said Muslims and Christians worship the same God

     

    By Kirkland An and Sarah Pulliam Bailey

    February 6 at 8:50 PM

     

    Wheaton College’s provost has withdrawn charges for firing political science professor Larycia Hawkins just five days before a faculty hearing was scheduled to help decide her fate at the school.

    In an email sent to faculty on Saturday, which was provided to The Washington Post, provost Stanton Jones said that he asked Hawkins for forgiveness.

    “I asked Dr. Hawkins for her forgiveness for the ways I contributed to the fracture of our relationship, and to the fracture of Dr. Hawkins’ relationship with the College,” he wrote.

    Jones wrote that he apologized for his “lack of wisdom and collegiality” in his original contact with Hawkins, which was through another colleague, as opposed to through direct contact.

    Hawkins was placed on administrative leave on Dec. 15 after she published a Facebook post suggesting that Christians and Muslims worship the same God. The statement set off a wave of controversy across the country amid larger debates about the role of Muslims in America. The college said at the time that her comments raised significant theological questions and requested the professor provide a theological statement. Faculty are required to sign a statement of faith, which some felt Hawkins could not affirm after making her comments.

    After Hawkins issued her theological statement, Jones requested further clarification, and upon the request, she declined to continue the conversation, telling The Post, “I don’t want to be subjected to a theological inquisition.” Jones then issued a notice for termination-for-cause, which he has now revoked.

    Saturday’s email from Jones came one day after 78 current Wheaton faculty members signed a letter petitioning for Hawkins’ reinstatement, and after the school’s 12-person Faculty Council, which represents the faculty, issued a similar letter, outlining their concerns with Hawkins’ termination proceedings. There are 211 faculty.

    Jones said in the email that while he still has concerns that Hawkins’ theological statements “raised important questions,” he revoked his termination charges because of the “deficiencies” in his early responses, and recognizing that Hawkins’ theological response was a “promising start” toward the conversation he wished to hold.

    Hawkins remains on administrative leave, a matter, Jones said in his email, Wheaton’s president Philip Ryken will resolve.

    Political science professor Leah Anderson, who is Hawkins’s department chair, said that faculty she spoke with on Saturday are rejoicing.

    “We’ve been hallelujah-ing,” Anderson said. “Everybody is just so relieved. I’m so impressed with the provost because I just can’t imagine the courage it took to reverse that decision.” Anderson believes that there could be backlash among some of the college’s alumni, but she hopes Wheaton can “gently educate” and help people “understand why the issue is more complicated than it looks to them.”

    Anderson said she does not know what the next steps will be in the process.

    “I think there are still issues and concerns and questions among faculty that we’ll have to work out as a community, but this creates a foundation on which we can work on,” she said.

    Calls to Wheaton’s spokeswoman and Hawkins were not immediately returned on Saturday.

    Hawkins’s comments that she would wear the hijab in solidarity with Muslim women during Advent, and her comment — Christians and Muslims worship the same God — became especially controversial in evangelical circles. She received criticism from leading evangelicals, including evangelist Franklin Graham, and was defended by others, including theologian Miroslav Volf.

    Hawkins is one of Wheaton’s five black tenured professors, who make up 2 percent of the faculty, and its only full-time black female professor.

    The underlying debate taking place among evangelicals is complex, centered on how the Christian belief in a Trinitarian God — God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit — differs from the God of Islam and Judaism.

    Theologians have debated whether Christians and Muslims understand God in the same way, and if so, whether they worship the same “one God.” Do they define the word “worship” in the same way?

    But those questions have been set aside amid the personnel dispute that had faculty concerned about the process the college used.

    Above is from:  https://www.facebook.com/sarahpulliambailey

     

    Joint Statement by Wheaton College and Dr. Larycia Hawkins Announcing a Resolution

    February 6, 2016

    Wheaton College and Associate Professor of Political Science Dr. Larycia Hawkins announce they have come together and found a mutual place of resolution and reconciliation. The College and Dr. Hawkins have reached a confidential agreement under which they will part ways.

    “Wheaton College sincerely appreciates Dr. Hawkins’ contributions to this institution over the last nine years,” says Wheaton College President Dr. Philip Graham Ryken. “We are grateful for her passionate teaching, scholarship, community service and mentorship of our students.”

    In reflecting on her years at Wheaton, Dr. Hawkins says, “I appreciate and have great respect for the Christian liberal arts and the ways that Wheaton College exudes that in its mission, programs, and in the caliber of its employees and students.”

    Both parties share a commitment to care for the oppressed and the marginalized, including those who are marginalized because of their religious beliefs, and to respectful dialogue with people of other faiths or no faith. While parting ways, both Wheaton College and Dr. Hawkins wish the best for each other in their ongoing work.

    In pursuit of further public reconciliation, a joint press conference will be held at the Chicago Temple First United Methodist Church, 77 W. Washington St., in Chicago, on Wednesday, February 10, at 10:00 a.m.

    Neither Wheaton College nor Dr. Hawkins will speak to the press about their relationship or their reconciliation before the scheduled press conference, and there will be no questions taken by the parties at or after the press conference.

    Wednesday, February 3, 2016

    New research ends age-old debate: Will you spoil your baby if you pick it up each time it cries?

    Parents, no pressure, but the success of our future society depends on you!

    New research points to cuddled children growing up to be healthier, less depressed, kinder, more empathetic, and more productive adults.

    According to a WSBT report, "snuggles matter."

    The new research from Notre Dame Psychologist Darcia Narvaez studied more than 600 adults and found those who were cuddled as children grew into more well-adjusted adults with less anxiety and better mental health.

    The study found that, along with cuddling, a positive childhood with lots of affection and quality time also led to healthier adults with better coping skills.

    The research will soon be featured in the journal Applied Developmental Science.

    Above is from:  http://wgntv.com/2016/02/01/new-research-ends-age-old-debate-will-you-spoil-your-baby-if-you-pick-it-up-each-time-it-cries/

    Much research has already been done on the effects of how cuddling helps preemies, and now that researchers are seeing benefits all the way up to adulthood, it just goes to show what the Beatles knew all along - all you need is love.

    This research also puts an end to an age-old debate - you may now tell your mother-in-law that you can't "spoil" your baby by picking them up when they cry.

    In fact, Narvaez tells WSBT that not only is it impossible to spoil a baby, you will actually "ruin" the baby's development by letting it cry.

    "What parents do in those early months and years are really affecting the way the brain is going to grow the rest of their lives, so lots of holding, touching and rocking, that is what babies expect. They grow better that way. And keep them calm, because all sorts of systems are establishing the way they are going to work. If you let them cry a lot, those systems are going to be easily triggered into stress. We can see that in adult hood, that people that are not cared for well, tend to be more stress reactive and they have a hard time self calming," said Narvaez.

    So, parents, snuggle away! Your child - and the world - will thank you later.

    Tuesday, February 2, 2016

    Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner says state will take control of Chicago schools

    Darryl Grant

    Chicago Political Buzz Examiner

    In the latest tug of war between Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner and the city Chicago, he announced at a press conference on Tuesday that he was prepared to give state control of Chicago Public Schools, the nation’s third largest school system, and the he had directed the State Board of Education to begin looking for an interim superintendent.

    Against the background of a press conference, where he announced in a change of the the Illinois procurement process, he said, “The state’s going to be ready to step in and take action.”

    According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Rauner said, “I asked our administration. I believe it’s coming. I believe a state takeover is appropriate,” also noted that, “The teachers union on Monday unanimously voted to reject a four-year contract offer, citing a lack of trust and concerns about long-term school funding. The union’s decision to reject the agreement is likely to affect Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s attempts to salvage an $875 million borrowing plan announced last week.”

    Drawing Mayor Rahm Emanuel into the fray, Rauner remarked, “I hope the rejection by the Chicago Teachers Union is a wake up call for the mayor and the taxpayers in Chicago and around the state. The mayor proposed an unaffordable contract. It was unaffordable. It was more kicking the can and just getting by and he was pushing off the day of reckoning and the teacher’s union still rejected that.” Observers suggest that Rauner feels that he can do a better job at the contract negotiations, than Emanuel and CPS can.

    Adding to the contract rejection was an announcement from CPS chief, Forrest Claypool, who The Chicago Tribune reported on Tuesday saying, that “the district will unilaterally institute a key provision in the offer and stop picking up pension contributions for teachers,” and and that further administrative cuts of by $100 million, affecting support staff, will also begin. In his letter, also dated Tuesday, Claypool states that these steps are being taken,“for the financial health of the district, and are being implemented because we no longer have a choice but to implement them.”

    In swift response, the Chicago Teacher’s Union, practically within minutes of Claypool’s announcement, said that they will file an unfair labor practice complaint. And, the Tribune also reported CTU President Karen Lewis saying that “the district's moves represented its ‘latest act of war,’” and furthermore that “union members would take to the streets this week to protest.”

    “We are certain everyone who works in our public schools is facing a clear and present danger,” Lewis remarked, and also said that the news from Claypool was “forcing someone to agree to a bad deal by threatening them, we're not going to be bullied.”

    In an emailed statement, the CTU said, “The Governor’s fantasy that he will invade the Chicago Public School system is a distraction from the real issues facing teachers and the students they serve. Mr. Rauner is unable to maintain control of the state’s fiscal health, let alone, take over a school district with severe revenue problems of its own making.Does he plan on sending in the Illinois National Guard to teach our children, take the chalk away from teachers and prepare school lunches? His idea is ridiculous and doesn’t pass the smell test.”

    Hovering in the background are the financial moves that Emanuel and CPS say must happen before further cuts, and according to Crain’s Chicago will continue “as early as tomorrow with plans to sell as much as $875 million of bonds after the deal was postponed last week by investors asking for more time to evaluate the securities. "We have good momentum with our investors," Claypool said.

    On the legislative side, there are no plans, or even existing legal provisions, by the Illinois General Assembly, for a takeover of CPS and according to the local CBS affiliate, CBS Chicago, “Illinois Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan already have made it clear Rauner’s plan is going nowhere with the Democratic-controlled legislature. Cullerton said the governor’s CPS takeover plan “is not going to happen,” and Madigan said it is “not the path we want to follow in Illinois.”

    The contract negotiations rejected by the larger CTU bargaining group, and not Lewis’ executive negotiating group, were based on a cited lack of trust, are not in and of itself, unknown in contract negotiations. Yet, the ensuing drama, consistent with Rauner’s anti-union stance are seen, by some, as political theater, with Lewis saying as much, in Tuesday’s news conference: “Please don’t pay any attention to the ravings of a madman because that’s what he is.”

    ABOVE IS FROM;  http://www.examiner.com/political-buzz-in-chicago/darryl-grant