Office Phone: 217-357-6056

WCAZ Radio News Archives for 2023-11

COUNTRY Financial ® Supports La Harpe Ambulance Service With Operation Helping Heroes Donation

COUNTRY Financial ® Supports La Harpe Ambulance Service With Operation

Helping Heroes Donation

Representative Jake Allen donates $1,500 for new ambulance equipment
La Harpe, IL (November 30, 2023) – COUNTRY Financial Representative Jake Allen is proud
to support the La Harpe Ambulance Service with a donation of $1,500. The funds will be used
to purchase new ambulance equipment. Allen recently shared the support in a check
presentation.
“The La Harpe Ambulance Service provides EMT support to the La Harpe community and
surround areas in Hancock County,” said Allen. “It’s operated by a dozen volunteers 24/7.
They have significant needs to attract more volunteers and require equipment upgrades to
continue providing these essential services to our community. I can’t think of a better way to
help than by donating these funds.”
COUNTRY Financial has donated more than $5 million since 2020 to organizations and
programs that support first responders, active-duty service members and veterans, supporting
the company’s vision to “enrich lives in the communities we serve.” The Operation Helping
Heroes program was created in 2015 to support non-profit events and programs that benefit
active-duty service members, veterans, and their families. Later, the program expanded to
include first responders and teachers.
Photo caption: Lee Wittler and Austin Torrence (Director) with La Harpe Ambulance Service
and COUNTRY Financial representative Jake Allen

Candidates for 2024 primary brave cold for potential ballot advantage

Candidates for 2024 primary brave cold for potential ballot advantage

By JERRY NOWICKI
Capitol News Illinois 
 

SPRINGFIELD – Monday marked the kickoff for the 2024 election cycle, with hundreds of candidates filing their petitions at the Illinois State Board of Elections.
Those in line by 8 a.m. Monday at the ISBE building in Springfield will be entered into a lottery to be the first name on the ballot in their respective primary elections, set for March 19. The lottery will be public and will take place on Dec. 13.
While some candidates camp out for hours to be first in line, Illinois State Board of Elections spokesman Matt Dietrich said he is skeptical that top billing offers an advantage, especially in primaries.  
“It doesn’t seem logical to me that you would have very many of those types of voters who would go into their polling place with no clue of who’s on the ballot and would just go through and randomly pick the first one or pick the last one,” he said. “Maybe it happens, I don’t know, but it does seem to defy logic a bit.”
The deadline for major party candidates to file their petitions is 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 4, with those entering in the final hour eligible for the last spot on the ballot. 
Among those in line at 8 a.m. was House Minority Leader Tony McCombie, R-Savanna, who said she’d consider it a success if the superminority party picked up five seats this year. Democrats currently hold a 78-40 majority in that chamber, but McCombie said she was hopeful her party could make headway in the Chicago suburbs. 
She also criticized Democrats for approving a district map that favors the majority party – a criticism oft-repeated by GOP candidates who lament that Democrats have drawn themselves into a decade of power until new maps are drawn after the 2030 U.S. Census.
“I would love to have more, of course,” she said. “But with the political environment of this map done by gerrymander, we're gonna see what we can do.” 
Asked about McCombie’s goal of flipping five seats, Rep. Marcus Evans, D-Chicago, said that’s going to be up to voters.   
“I think that people are going to be our litmus tests,” he said. “I think the Democrats have done a good job. Our track record is pretty clear.”
McCombie said Republicans’ top issues will be the economy, followed by “ethics and corruption,” although she acknowledged the latter issue has not necessarily helped the GOP “turn out voters.”
On the issue of abortion, McCombie said the GOP should “talk about it” – and her status as Republicans’ first-ever top female leader in the House puts her in the position to do so. 
“I think, with a female leader, it might be a little bit different,” she said when asked about Democrats’ successfully campaigning on the abortion issue since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision last summer. 
“I think the government certainly always has their hands in every issue. And I think we just have to approach it and be realistic about it and just talk about it,” she said, later adding, “We're not afraid to talk about our bodies.” 
Other issues that are likely to play a major role in the election are the state and city of Chicago’s handling of an influx of migrants from southern U.S. border states, particularly Texas. 
Evans, who is a majority leader for House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, commended Gov. JB Pritzker’s recent decision to dedicate another $160 million in state resources to help migrants find housing and to navigate the asylum process. 
Read more: Pritzker designates additional $160M for migrant response as winter approaches 
“This migrant issue is a worldwide, is a national issue,” Evans said. “I just got back from New York. And they've gotten a lot of folks from Venezuela who are looking for what we have in America – opportunity, you know – so we got to try to manage those folks.”
While McCombie said she expects lawmakers to consider a potentially unpopular supplemental spending plan to assist migrants, Evans was noncommittal on new funding going to the issue. 
Evans, a strong union ally, noted that energy policy will be a priority for Democrats in the upcoming legislative session. 
He specifically mentioned a measure giving existing utilities on the downstate energy grid the right of first refusal when it comes to building new transmission lines – a measure that unions supported but Pritzker vetoed earlier this year. 
Its supporters have said they want to bring the issue back next year, and Evans said he’d support the effort. 
Read more: Proponents drop push to give downstate utilities dibs on new transmission lines
Voters in the March 19 primary will choose nominees in races for president, the U.S. House of Representatives, Illinois General Assembly, judicial races, and multiple county contests.
As far as the presidential race goes, McCombie said she favored U.S. Sen. Tim Scott, R-South Carolina, at the top of the ticket and she was disappointed when he dropped out. She said she also liked the message of former Republican South Carolina Gov. Nikki Hailey, who also served as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations under former President Donald Trump. 
With Trump polling well in the lead of the GOP field, McCombie was asked if it would hurt the GOP in down-ballot races, given Illinoisans’ strong support of Democratic candidates in recent elections. 
“I don't know if it hurts it, but it might challenge it,” she said. 
Capitol News Illinois’ Andrew Campbell and Jennifer Fuller contributed.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Former GOP senator, third-party governor candidate to represent himself in corruption trial

Former GOP senator, third-party governor candidate to represent himself in corruption trial


By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois

SPRINGFIELD – Monday was supposed to have been the first day in the weeklong federal corruption trial of former Republican state Sen. Sam McCann, who allegedly misused more than $200,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses.
A pull-down projector screen in the Springfield courtroom of U.S. District Judge Colleen Lawless stood ready to play host to prosecutors’ presentation prepared to accompany their opening statements.
But in a bizarre turn of events as Lawless took the bench on Monday morning, McCann presented a pair of last-minute motions to represent himself – ditching his latest court-appointed attorneys – and delay the trial for at least the 13th time.
“I’m not a professional…but I care about the outcome,” McCann told the judge, acknowledging he isn’t an attorney, nor did he finish college.
Lawless chided McCann for not actually answering her question of whether he was familiar with the federal rules of evidence, later adding that a “trained lawyer” would represent him far better than any defense case he’d put on as a pro se litigant.
“I think it is unwise for you to represent yourself in this proceeding,” Lawless said before ultimately approving both of McCann’s motions and rescheduling the trial for the week of Feb. 5. 
During a final pretrial conference last week, Lawless had already approved McCann’s request to have the case heard in a bench trial setting, instead of a trial by jury.
After the hourlong court session Monday morning, McCann briefly explained to reporters outside the courthouse that he’d come to his decision over the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend, when he’d hoped “a better defense” would materialize from his court-appointed attorneys.
“I've been counting on other people to do everything they could do for me,” McCann said. “And that hasn't worked out. And so now I'm going to do everything I can do. And we'll let the good Lord take care of the rest.”

‘Scheme to defraud’
McCann had been out of public office for more than two years in February 2021 when a federal grand jury indicted him on seven counts of wire fraud and one count each of money laundering and tax evasion.
Read more: Former GOP state Senator, Conservative Party candidate for governor indicted
The president of his own construction company, McCann narrowly defeated popular Democratic state Sen. Deanna Demuzio in the Republican wave of 2010. He held that seat for eight years, stepping away from it only to run as a third-party candidate for governor in 2018.
McCann had established the “Conservative Party” that summer, leaving the GOP he believed wasn’t conservative enough under then-Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner. Two years earlier, Rauner had spent millions backing an opponent to McCann in 2016, but organized labor came through for McCann, who held onto his seat.
In 2018, organized labor again intervened on McCann’s behalf, seeking to siphon Republican votes away from Rauner, who was easily defeated anyway by Democrat JB Pritzker. McCann ultimately received 4.2 percent of the November 2018 vote, or nearly 193,000 votes.
But throughout the two political battles – through the spring of 2020, according to federal prosecutors – McCann had allegedly been mismanaging some of the more than $5 million that had been donated to his various political accounts.
According to state records, McCann’s construction businesses saw their corporate statuses dissolved by the secretary of state’s office in late 2013 for failure to pay taxes and file required annual reports. The federal Internal Revenue Service also began looking into McCann’s businesses, hitting him with hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax liens.
Against the backdrop of business troubles, the feds allege that beginning in 2015, McCann “engaged in a scheme to convert more than $200,000 in contributions and donations made to his campaign committees to pay himself and make personal purchases,” according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office at the time of his indictment. 
McCann also allegedly concealed his fraud “from donors, the public, the Illinois State Board of Elections and law enforcement authorities,” according to the feds.
He allegedly used some of that money to pay his mortgage, personal debts, buy personal vehicles and even pay himself.
In addition to spending roughly $60,000 on a 2017 Ford Expedition and a 2018 Ford F-250 pickup truck – along with the fuel and insurance costs for the vehicles – McCann also allegedly purchased two recreational vehicles with campaign funds.
He sought to turn those RVs into a business opportunity, according to the feds, establishing an account with an RV rental business in Ohio to rent out the vehicles. He’d put that account under the name “Sam McCann.”
At that same company, McCann made another account as a potential renter under the name “William McCann” – his legal first name – and proceeded to “rent” the vehicles to himself, paid for by campaign funds. 
McCann also allegedly spent $50,000 in campaign funds on credit card payments related to a family vacation in Colorado and charges from Apple iTunes, Amazon, a skeet and trap club, Cabela’s, Scheels, Best Buy, a gun store and cash withdrawals.
Shortly after being indicted, McCann claimed he was unemployed and had very little money to his name, while facing tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
His bleak financial picture earned him a court-appointed attorney, though he’s now been through five such attorneys, including those he ditched on Monday morning.
But McCann told reporters he wasn’t nervous about representing himself, saying “God’s got this,” and insisting he’s innocent.
“It’s obvious to me that no one is going to take this seriously, especially an appointed – I guess you get what you pay for,” he said. 
McCann’s campaign account was dissolved by the Illinois State Board of Elections in August after he didn’t file required paperwork for more than two years. Though his account has a little more than $32,000 in it, the letter notifying McCann of the account dissolution noted he owes the Board of Elections $9,250 in fines. 
The campaign account for McCann’s Conservative Party of Illinois, meanwhile, has a balance of $15.66, though it hasn’t filed its required quarterly reports since January 2022.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association

Carthage Library virtually hosts author and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb

Carthage Library virtually hosts author and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb

 

Carthage Library virtually hosts author and psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb
Carthage Public Library District joins more than 200 Illinois libraries to virtually host
‘Surviving the Holidays” with Lori Gottlieb at 7:00 pm on Wednesday, Dec. 6. Gottlieb,
New York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, and co-host
of the “Dear Therapists” podcast, joins us for a thought-provoking conversation about
mental health in anticipation of the winter holiday season. Attend a watch party at the
Carthage Public Library, 500 Wabash Avenue in Carthage, or pre-register for the Zoom
program at https://bit.ly/ILP_LoriGottlieb or through the link on the Library’s website.
“The Library’s book club read and discussed Gottlieb’s book a couple of years ago,”
says Carthage Library Director, Amy Gee. “I hear that she is an entertaining speaker
and we are looking forward to her presentation.”
Lori Gottlieb blends her clinical experience with the latest research and cultural
developments with the goal of helping people live better lives. Attendees will witness
this unique combination and the psychotherapist’s perspective of how stories form the
core of each of us. She will share tools to help in everyday life and especially with
navigating the holiday season.
Gottlieb’s book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, sold over a million copies
and is currently being adapted into a television series. In addition to her clinical practice,
she is co-host of the popular “Dear Therapists” podcast and writes The Atlantic’s “Dear

Therapist” advice column. She has been on the “Today Show,” “Good Morning
America,” CNN, and NPR’s “Fresh Air” as a therapy expert and her 2019 TED Talk was
one of the most watched of the year. Learn more at LoriGottlieb.com or by following her
on Instagram @lorigottlieb_author and Twitter @LoriGottlieb1.
This event is made possible by Illinois Libraries Present (ILP), a statewide
collaboration among public libraries offering premier events. Also in December, ILP
allows you to experience The Nutcracker at home with a recording of Tchaikovsky’s
famous ballet. Register at bit.ly/WatchTheNutcracker to receive a special link to a
performance by the United Kingdom’s internationally renowned Royal Ballet. The
recording will be available for home viewing on Saturday, Dec. 16 and Sunday, Dec. 17,
but will not be shown at the library.
ILP Season 3 continues on January 11, 2024 when science fiction authors Cory
Doctorow, Ken Liu and Martha Wells speculate about artificial intelligence. February
programs feature children’s book author Jerry Craft on Feb. 6 and Julia Quinn
discussing her books about the Bridgertons on Feb. 20.
Illinois Libraries Present is funded in part by a grant awarded by the Illinois State
Library, a department of the Office of Secretary of State, using funds provided by the
U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, under the provisions of the Library
Services and Technology Act (LSTA). ILP is committed to inclusion and accessibility.
For more information, visit the library’s website: www.carthagepubliclibrary.com,
call 217-357-3232, or email cartlib@mtcnow.net.

State high court skeptical municipal police and fire pension consolidation hurt retirees' voting rights

State high court skeptical municipal police and fire pension consolidation hurt retirees’ voting rights

By HANNAH MEISEL
Capitol News Illinois
 

The Illinois Supreme Court on Tuesday heard arguments in a case alleging the state’s 2019 law that consolidated nearly 650 individual police and firefighter pension funds actually hurt retirees by diluting their voting power.
The nearly three-dozen pensioners and 17 individual pension funds that sued over the law have already lost twice in lower court. But their attorney on Tuesday was insistent the retired police and firefighters were wronged when Gov. JB Pritzker signed the law – passed with overwhelming bipartisan majorities in the General Assembly – that consolidated the 649 funds into two.
Read more: Pritzker signs pension consolidation bill into law
The pair of funds – one that manages pensions for retired police and the other for retired firefighters – were consolidated in order for them to access bigger investments previously not available to the hundreds of small individual funds, all in the hopes of yielding larger returns. 
Read more: Task force recommends merging 649 local pension funds
Consolidation also eliminated administrative costs paid out of the individual pension funds.
But attorney Daniel Konicek said his clients’ objection wasn’t about the money, but rather their say in how the money is managed.
“It completely, undeniably diluted their ability to put people on a five-person board that they knew, versus these new boards of people that are statewide and (they) don't know,” Konicek told the justices.
But nearly before he was done speaking, Justice Mary K. O’Brien cut in.
“How does that impact whether or not they get a check at the end of the month or on the 19th of the month?” she asked.
Konicek didn’t directly answer, noting that interpretation was what the lower courts had relied on. Instead, he urged the justices to look at the court’s previous decisions in pension-related cases, particularly in the last decade. 
In 2014, for example, six of the seven justices on the court ruled the “pension protection clause” in Illinois’ constitution prevented the state from reducing health care benefits to retirees. The constitution stipulates that membership in any government retirement system in Illinois is “an enforceable contractual relationship, the benefits of which shall not be diminished or impaired.”
So, Konicek argued, in ruling that the pension protection clause extends to more than just pension benefits alone, the court should also find that voting rights for local pension funds is also a benefit that members are guaranteed.
“Isn't it accurate that even in (the 2014 case) we were talking about something that…reduced the financial benefit?” Justice Joy Cunningham asked. “It was about money, not voting.”
In 2015, the court unanimously ruled that Illinois’ constitution prevented the General Assembly from enacting a massive pension overhaul plan that would’ve cut state retirees’ annual three percent compounded cost of living adjustments – one of the main drivers of the state’s ever-growing unfunded pension liabilities.
Chief Justice Mary Jane Theis, the only justice left who was on the court a decade ago, asked the bulk of questions to Konicek, and even toward the end of his rebuttal still was unclear about the “benefit” he was arguing was impaired in this case.
“So again – let’s be real clear – what is the benefit that has been diminished?” Theis asked. “That members no longer have a vote as to who makes the investment decisions?” 
Konicek affirmed her assertion before wrapping up his arguments.
Assistant Attorney General Richard Huszagh sought to further bolster justices’ apparent skepticism about financial benefits to pensioners not being affected by the law.
“It does not reduce by a penny the payments made to any member,” he said, further noting the individual pension funds are still able to determine for themselves whether, for example, a member is eligible for disability, and the formula for those payments.
Huszagh also told the justices that Konicek and his clients are “asking the court to overrule 50 years of its own precedent” that he argues defines “very clearly” what benefits are and are not protected by Illinois’ constitution.
He warned that the court ruling in the plaintiffs’ favor would “open up a giant can of worms” as such a ruling would then call into question many other changes made to pension fund administration in the last 50 years since the state constitution was ratified – including a state law that requires pension funds to hire investment advisors.
“Well, that would be unconstitutional because somebody would consider it a benefit not to have investment advisors and not to incur those expenses,” Huszagh said. “There's no stopping point for where they want to go with this case.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association. 

Candidate filing begins Monday, signaling official start of 2024 election cycle

Candidate filing begins Monday, signaling official start of 2024 election cycle?

By DILPREET RAJU
Capitol News Illinois
 

Monday morning marks the official beginning of the 2024 election cycle in Illinois, opening up the week-long period when candidates for local, state, congressional and judicial races are required to turn in the signatures they’ve spent the last two months collecting to get on the ballot.
The first day of petition filing has traditionally taken on a party atmosphere, as candidates and staff line up outside the Illinois State Board of Elections office in Springfield, where the line often reaches past the Chuck E. Cheese storefront, roughly 100 yards down from the board’s entrance in the capital city strip mall.
Those who get in line before 8 a.m. are entered into a lottery drawing to be placed atop the ballot for their respective position. The lottery drawing is scheduled for Dec. 13.
Though many candidates line up before filing opens, elections board spokesperson Matt Dietrich said he hasn’t seen any studies that prove being first on a primary ballot actually provides any advantage.
“Primary voters tend to be the most informed voters,” he said. “So these are the voters are most likely to know which candidates are on their primary ballot and they're the voters who are most likely to have already made up their minds before they go into the polling place.”
Still, “political candidates, if they sense that there may be any type of advantage to something, they'll go out of their way,” Dietrich said.
Some candidates also try for another myth of advantage by waiting until the last hour of the last day of the filing period, Dec. 4 from 4 to 5 p.m. This pool of candidates is entered into a lottery to be at the bottom of the list in their respective races.
Candidates can file petitions to be on the ballot from Nov. 27 through Dec. 4 at the elections office for any of the 17 U.S. House of Representatives seats, 141 Illinois General Assembly seats or 77 judicial vacancies.
After filing, the board opens a period for challenges to candidate petitions. Typically, opponents or party operatives will attempt to knock a newcomer off the ballot for signatures that may not have been collected properly, or in some cases are proven to be fraudulent. 
The board will certify the primary ballot at its January meeting and the primary election is scheduled for March 19.
This filing day signals a return to normal from the last state election cycle, which was slowed by delays in 2020 U.S. Census data that caused a chain reaction — slowing the process of redistricting in 2021 and changing Illinois’ typical mid-March primary to a June primary last year. Instead of the usual November candidate filing in 2021, the Board of Elections pushed it to March 2022.
Dietrich said it was necessary as candidates needed the new maps — which had been challenged in court — finalized before they could start passing petitions for the new districts they sought to run in.

Election security
Even before petitions are filed, election authorities in Illinois are trying to get ahead of both conspiracy theories and genuine questions about election security and integrity that have continue to circulate and evolve on social media during the past several election cycles.
In late September a number of downstate county clerks hosted a series of coordinated news conferences to send the message that if constituents are concerned about election integrity, they should visit their local county clerk’s office to learn how the process is actually handled from start to finish.
In a Capitol Cast interview this fall, Tazewell County Clerk John Ackerman said that since 2016, county clerks throughout the state of Illinois have seen “unprecedented attention focused on elections.”
“A lot of misinformation [is] being placed out there,” Ackerman said. “Two presidential cycles in a row. Before we got to the third one, if you just keep doing the same thing, you’ll get the same result.”
Ackerman said he tries to tell people, “you know who we are, we’re in the community, our kids go to the same schools, we shop at the same supermarkets.”
On the podcast in September, Dietrich emphasized that the work of running elections is largely decentralized; the Board of Elections only provides administrative support to Illinois' 108 local election authorities.
”They do all of the voter registration, they do all of the voter list maintenance on a daily basis, they recruit the election judges, they rent out the polling places,” he said.
One increased security measure requires that no one except Board of Elections employees and candidates filing their signatures will be allowed in the petition filing room next week.
The 2024 Illinois general primary election is March 19. Registered voters can begin requesting mail-in ballots Dec. 20, according to the Illinois State Board of Elections calendar.
Hannah Meisel contributed.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.  
 

Carl Sandburg College Receives $96K Grant to Support Nursing Program

Carl Sandburg College Receives $96K Grant to Support Nursing Program

The Carl Sandburg College Board of Trustees during its regular monthly meeting Thursday accepted a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education for nearly $100,000 to support the college’s nursing program.

 

This is the second consecutive year Sandburg has been awarded a Nursing School Grant from the IBHE. The $96,400 grant will support equipment for the simulation lab in Sandburg’s new Science & Technology Center, which is scheduled to open for the 2024-25 academic year. Equipment to be purchased includes cameras and push-to-talk microphones for student and instructor use.

 

Funds from the grant will also be used to cover the cost of the NCLEX exam and end-of-program fees for registered nursing students who are on track to complete and obtain their state licensure.

 

A resolution was read commending trustee Bruce Lauerman on his retirement from the board. Lauerman was first elected as a trustee in 1990. During his tenure, Lauerman has been a member of the Illinois Community College Trustees Association Executive Committee, was a regional chair for the ICCTA and was a member of the association’s Nominating Committee.

 

The board also approved the renewal of the employee hospitalization and major medical insurance program through BlueCross BlueShield of Illinois as well as contracting with Mutual of Omaha for dental, life and vision insurance. Sandburg had offered employees dental and life insurance through Principal Financial Group since 2011. The quote from Mutual of Omaha includes improvements such as less out-of-pocket expense, a larger network of dentists and a four-tiered option for family coverage. It also includes the addition of a voluntary, low-cost vision insurance option.

 

Also Thursday, trustees adopted the schedule for board meetings for calendar year 2024. All meetings are scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. on the Galesburg campus on the following dates:

 

  • Jan. 25
  • Feb. 22
  • March 28
  • April 25
  • May 23
  • June 27
  • July 25
  • Aug. 22
  • Sept. 26
  • Oct. 17
  • Nov. 21
  • Dec. 19

 

 

In other business, the board approved the following:

  • Acceptance of a bid of $76,120.50 from ADP to serve as a human resources information system and payroll processing service provider.
  • Employment of Stephen Descalzo as director of TRIO Student Support Services and Galesburg Scholars advisor, effective Dec. 1.
  • Employment of Chad Hillier as trades program advocate, effective Dec. 1.
  • Employment of Amanda Morse as associate director of financial aid, effective Dec. 1.
  • Employment of Jace Stotler as second-shift public safety officer, effective Dec. 1.
  • Termination of Darin Dunphy as director of TRIO Student Support Services program and Gale Scholars advisor, effective Oct. 27.
  • Termination of Christopher Williams as director of Upward Bound Project, effective Nov. 10.
  • Resignation of Jiyou Galloway as CTE program support specialist, effective Nov. 10.

 

The board’s next regular monthly meeting is 7 p.m. Dec. 21 on the Galesburg campus.

Illini West Athletic Events 11/27 to 12/2

Illini West Athletic Events 11/27 to 12/2

Monday, November 27

Depart

6:00 PM Girls Junior Varsity Basketball West Hancock 5:00 PM Away
7:30 PM Girls Varsity Basketball West Hancock 5:00 PM Away
Tuesday, November 28

Depart

06:00 PM Boys Junior Varsity Basketball

Abingdon-Avon High School
Played in LaHarpe

Home

07:30 PM Boys Varsity Basketball

Abingdon-Avon High School
Played in LaHarpe

Home

Wednesday, November 29

Depart

6:00 PM Girls Freshman Basketball Bushnell-Prairie City Home
7:30 PM Boys Freshman Basketball Bushnell-Prairie City Home
Thursday, November 30

Depart

6:00PM Girls Junior Varsity Basketball Rushville-Industry HS Home
06:00 PM Coed Varsity Wrestling

Beardstown Middle/Sr. High
School

3:30 PM Away
7:30 PM Girls Varsity Basketball Rushville-Industry HS Home
Friday, December 01

Depart

No events scheduled
Saturday, December 02

Depart

9:00 AM Girls Junior Varsity Basketball

JV Round Robin @ West Hancock
(Hamilton)

8:00 AM Away

10:15 AM Boys Freshman Basketball

Farmington High School
Jamboree @ Farmington (10:15,
11:30)

8:00 AM Away

Sheriff Travis Duffy reports a residential fire in Plymouth, IL on November 15, 2023 led to a death investigation

Sheriff Travis Duffy reports a residential fire in Plymouth, IL on November 15,
2023 led to a death investigation

 

Deputies were notified that Tri-County Fire, Colchester Fire, and Augusta Fire
were on scene for a structure fire at 103 E. Marion St, Plymouth, IL where they
discovered an individual that was deceased.

When deputies arrived, they met with fire department officials and learned that
they had responded to the structure fire and made entry into the residence where
they discovered the resident was still inside. They extricated the resident and
discovered that the resident was deceased.

Deputies investigated the scene and spoke with witnesses. The Hancock County
Coroner was called to the scene along with an investigator from the Illinois Fire
Marshal’s Office.

The victim was identified as Amy L. Aleshire, age 58. An autopsy was conducted
on November 16, 2023 and the preliminary results show Aleshire passed away of
natural causes.

The fire itself remains under investigation. No foul play is suspected to have
occurred.

Two-Year Anniversary of Bipartisan Infrastructure Law

Congressman Eric Sorensen (IL-17) celebrated the second anniversary of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law being signed into law and highlighted the law’s impact on transforming Illinois roads, improving water quality, expanding access to broadband, and more. 

 

The law is making critical investments that will directly improve the lives of Illinoisans and position our region for success, including: 

 

  • Roads and Bridges: In Illinois, there are 2,423 bridges and over 6,137 miles of highway in poor condition. Illinois is expected to receive approximately $11.3 billion over five years to address failing highways and bridges. 
    • Announced funding: To date, Illinois has received $5.9 billion in highway formula funding and $891.8 million in dedicated formula funding for bridges. 
    • For the 17th Congressional District, this includes funding for 90 new projects for FY2023 and 114 new projects in FY2022. 

 

  • Water: Illinois’ 17th Congressional District has some of the highest percentages of lead pipes of any district in the country. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law includes the first-ever dedicated federal funding to replace lead service lines and address dangerous PFAS chemicals. 
    • Announced funding to date: To date, $751 million has been announced to Illinois to provide clean and safe water across the state and improve water infrastructure, including $337.1 million directly dedicated to lead pipe and service line replacement. 
    • In April, Sorensen joined EPA Administrator Michael Regan to see firsthand the Rockford neighborhoods where lead service lines are being removed thanks to this law. 

 

  • Internet: Many homes and small businesses, especially those in our rural communities, still lack access to high-speed internet.  
    • Announced funding to date: Illinois has received $1 billion through the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment Program (BEAD) to provide access to high-speed internet to Illinoisans. 
    • As of October, 54,099 households the 17th District were connected thanks to the Affordable Connectivity Program, which helps cover internet plans for families. 

 

  • Clean Energy and Resilience: In the last decade, Illinois has experienced 48 extreme weather events, costing the state up to $16 billion in damages. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law makes a historic investment to bolster resilience against pressing challenges like impacts of climate change and extreme weather events. 
    • Announced funding to date: Approximately $1.4 billion has been allocated to Illinois for infrastructure resilience, including $92.9 million through the Army Corps of Engineers for flood mitigation. 

 

  • Ports and Waterways: Our ports and waterways connect Illinois farmers to markets around the world. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $17 billion in port infrastructure to strengthen supply chains, getting agriculture goods to market faster and supporting our regional economy. 
    • Announced funding: To date, Illinois has received roughly $281.7 million to improve its ports and waterways and support rural communities. 

 

  • Airports: Illinois airports are in desperate need of repair and reimagination. 
    • Announced funding: To date, Illinois has received approximately $329.8 million to modernize its airports and better connect the region to more business and opportunity. 

 

  • Public Transit: Illinois is expected to receive approximately $4.5 billion over five years under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to improve public transit in the state. 
    • Announced funding to date: To date, Illinois has been allocated $1.7 billion to improve its public transportation.  

 

  • Electric Vehicle Charging: Through the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Program alone, Illinois should expect to receive roughly $149 million in formula funding over five years to support the expansion of electric vehicle charging in the state. 
    • Announced funding: To date, Illinois has been allocated $85.3 million to build out a network of EV chargers across the state. 

 

300 Galesburg 8th Graders to Take Part in Welcome to the Real World Event Nov. 17 at Carl Sandburg College

300 Galesburg 8th Graders to Take Part in Welcome to the Real World Event Nov. 17 at Carl Sandburg College

Approximately 300 eighth graders from Galesburg District 205 will embark on an immersive occupational journey during the Welcome to the Real World and Career Exploration event from 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 17 on Carl Sandburg College’s Galesburg campus.

 

The event, hosted by Sandburg in cooperation with the University of Illinois Extension and Regional Office of Education No. 33, also includes the help of nearly 100 volunteers. It is sure to serve as inspiration to students’ aspirations and prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the future while introducing them to a wealth of career options.

 

The Welcome to the Real World portion of the event demonstrates the implications of career choices and financial decisions, empowering students with a better understanding of how their choices can impact their financial futures.

 

The Career Exploration portion, located in the Sandburg Theater and John Lewis Gym, offers students the opportunity to explore a wide range of career paths from industry partners. A new twist for this fall allows students to take part in a career panel of employers and participate in live, hands-on demos with area businesses.

 

Businesses, organizations and offices scheduled to participate include:

 

  • F&M Bank
  • Galesburg Fire Department
  • Galesburg Police Department
  • John Deere
  • Knox County Clerk and Recorder
  • Kunes Nissan of Davenport
  • Midstate Manufacturing
  • Porter-Hay Insurance
  • ROE Early Childhood
  • Sandburg dental hygiene program
  • Sandburg medical coding program
  • Sandburg technology services staff

 

 

This partnership between Sandburg, the U of I Extension and ROE No. 33 underscores the commitment of these organizations to provide students with exceptional opportunities for growth and learning.

 

For more information, contact Tracy Engstrom, coordinator of career development at Sandburg, at 309.341.5246 or tengstrom@sandburg.edu or Shelby Carlson from the U of I Extension at srcarls2@illinois.edu.

 

QUINCY MEDICAL GROUP AND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL PARTNER TO EXPAND ORTHOPEDICS CARE IN CARTHAGE

QUINCY MEDICAL GROUP AND MEMORIAL HOSPITAL PARTNER

TO EXPAND ORTHOPEDICS CARE IN CARTHAGE

 

CARTHAGE, IL — Quincy Medical Group (QMG) and Memorial Hospital in Carthage are
thrilled to announce an expansion of their collaborative efforts to elevate healthcare services for Carthage and its surrounding communities. James Van den Bogaerde, MD, Orthopedic Surgeon with QMG, will join Drake B. White, MD, MS, of Memorial Hospital, to provide Orthopedic Surgery care for patients.
On November 1 st , Dr. Van den Bogaerde began seeing patients at Memorial Medical Clinic, located at 1450 N. Co. Road 2050 in Carthage. His comprehensive practice will cover a wide spectrum of orthopedic injuries and conditions.
Dr. Van den Bogaerde comes to region with extensive experience in Orthopedics. He earned his undergraduate degree in biology from the University of California and his medical degree from the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine. He furthered his skills with an internship in the Surgery department and a residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California
– Davis. Additionally, he completed a fellowship in Sports Medicine at Steadman Hawkins
Clinic in Vail, Colorado. In addition, Dr. Van den Bogaerde is a member of the U.S. Ski Team
Physician Pool.
He looks forward to getting to know patients and shared, "My goal is to provide the highest quality, compassionate, patient-centered care.
For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit mhtlc.org or call (217) 357-2173

Hy-Vee's Retail Stores Will Be Closed Thanksgiving Day

Hy-Vee’s Retail Stores Will Be Closed Thanksgiving Day

 

 Hy-Vee announced today that its more than 550 retail business units will be closed for Thanksgiving Day so that the company’s 75,000 plus employees across its eight-state region can enjoy the holiday with friends and family.

 

On Nov. 23, all Hy-Vee grocery stores, Dollar Fresh Markets, Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh locations, Wall to Wall Wine and Spirits stores, and Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits locations will be closed. Customers will still be able to pay at the pump for fuel at all Hy-Vee Fast & Fresh locations on Thanksgiving Day.

 

“As we head into the holiday season, we want to once again show our appreciation for all our hardworking employees by providing them with quality time to spend with their loved ones," said Jeremy Gosch, Hy-Vee’s CEO. "By closing our stores on Thanksgiving Day, our employees can focus on and enjoy their own celebrations.”

 

Customers who purchase holiday meal packs will be able to schedule a time to pick up their order in-store prior to the Thanksgiving holiday or via curbside pickup from 8 – 11 a.m. on Thanksgiving Day at Hy-Vee grocery stores. Customers can order holiday meal packs by calling their local Hy-Vee store or by ordering online.

 

All Hy-Vee offices and store locations will also be closed on Christmas day.

 

Make Your Contribution to Carl Sandburg College This Giving Tuesday

Make Your Contribution to Carl Sandburg College This Giving Tuesday

The Carl Sandburg College Foundation invites community members, alumni, businesses and organizations to show their support for student success on Giving Tuesday, coming up Nov. 28.

 

Giving Tuesday is a global day of generosity that takes place each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. This year, the Sandburg Foundation is aiming to surpass its 2022 Giving Tuesday total of $22,000 and expand its network of supporters by accepting contributions from at least 100 donors. The foundation also doubled its contributions from Sandburg employees during last year’s Giving Tuesday campaign.

 

The Sandburg Foundation supports student success by distributing hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to Sandburg students through scholarships, assistance grants, innovation grants and more.

 

“A gift of any size makes a positive difference in the life of a Sandburg student. Your support is more than a financial contribution, it’s a belief and investment in current and future students as they set out to achieve their academic and career goals,” said Eric Johnson, chief advancement officer.

 

Donors can give to their passion by choosing exactly what area or department their contribution goes to, or they can have it used where Sandburg needs it most. The most popular designations for donations include the foundation’s unrestricted fund, scholarships/financial aid, student success grants and athletics.

 

To learn more and make your Giving Tuesday contribution, visit sandburg.edu/givingtuesday.

 

You can also make a donation to the Sandburg Foundation at any time at its GiveCampus page or by contacting the foundation at 309.341.5349 or foundation@sandburg.edu.

Hancock County Home Health Agency Receives Honors Elite Award

Hancock County Home Health Agency Receives Honors Elite Award

Carthage, IL —Hancock County Health Department Home Health Agency has been named a 2023 HHCAHPS Honors Elite Award recipient by HEALTHCAREfirst, the premiere provider of RCM services, CAHPS surveys and advanced analytics for home health and hospice organizations. This prestigious annual review recognizes agencies that continuously provide a positive patient experience and high-quality care as measured from the patient’s experiences and perspective of their home health care. It acknowledges the highest performing agencies by analyzing the performance of the Home Health Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (HHCAHPS) survey satisfaction measures.

 

HHCAHPS Honors acknowledges the highest performing agencies by analyzing performance on the Willingness to Recommend question as a qualifier and then analyzing performance on 18 other questions that comprise the publicly reported measures from April 2022 through March 2023.

HHCAHPS Honors recipients include agencies scoring above the HEALTHCAREfirst National Average on at least 85% or seventeen of the evaluated questions. HEALTHCAREfirst holds a special recognition, HHCAHPS Honors Elite, to recognize home health agencies scoring above the HEALTHCAREfirst National Average on 100% of the evaluated questions.

 

“We began our award program more than ten years ago as a way to shine a positive light on those agencies that are truly leading the way in providing and demonstrating quality patient care,” said Ronda Howard, VP, Revenue Cycle and CAHPS, HEALTHCAREfirst. “We are thrilled to congratulate Hancock County Health Department Home Health Agency on their success and are so proud and honored that they have chosen to partner with us in helping drive success for their agency.”

The Hancock County Health Department can provide Home Health Services to individuals who have been determined by their doctor to have a skilled need.  A HH Registered Nurse will work with the doctors to update a plan of care, evaluate patient needs at home, perform nursing procedures, educate the patient and caregivers on aspects of their condition or disease process and self-care techniques, etc.  Physical, occupational and speech therapy may be necessary for the patient also.  The Registered Nurse will also determine if Home Health Aide services are needed to assist the patient with activities of daily living, like, bathing, shampooing, light housework, etc.   

For more information about the Hancock County Health Department Home Health Agency, please contact 217-357-2171 option 1.

Road Closure- Middle Creek Road

Road Closure


Middle Creek Road, (2450 East), between intersections: 1220 North and 1300 North will be closed from 8:00 a.m. on 11/7/23 trough 4:00 p.m. on 11/14/23, for Bridge Repair.

Winners of 35th Carl Sandburg College Poetry Contest Announced

Winners of 35th Carl Sandburg College Poetry Contest Announced

GALESBURG — Carl Sandburg College has announced the winners of the 35th annual Carl Sandburg College Poetry Contest.

 

First through third place and honorable mentions were selected in four categories: elementary (grades 1-5), junior (grades 6-8), intermediate (grades 9-12) and adult. Award winners were invited to attend a banquet Nov. 3 in the Sandburg library.

 

A digital booklet with the text of this year’s award-winning poems, as well as a list of winners from recent years, can be found at sandburg.edu/poetryawards.

 

35th ANNUAL CARL SANDBURG COLLEGE POETRY AWARDS

Elementary Division

First place — “Flowers” by Anna Rozny

Second place — “The Magic of Opal” by Opal Ponce-Little

Third place — “Long Division Cinquain” by James Rozny

Honorable mention — “Love” by Maria Rose Ponce-Little

Honorable mention — “An Ode to My Cat” by Grayson Hannam

 

Junior Division

First place — “The Traveling Boy” by Erik Dockins

Second place — “The Never Ending Staircase” by Rylan Doyle

Third place — “I am More than Just Hair” by Lexie Anderson

Honorable mention — “Alaska” by Max J.T. Johnson

Honorable mention — “Nature” by Kylie McClellan

 

Intermediate Division

First place — “Clay Vessel” by Emma Racke

Second place — “In Between” by Katelynn Bredemeier

Third place — “Sold My Soul Waiting In Line At Hot Topic” by Madelyn Sackett

Honorable mention — “What do you mean it was fake?” by Alleah Rickard-Stone

Honorable mention — “One Door Opens” by Grace Manning

 

Adult Division

First place — “story left by a coffee cup in the wee hours of the morning” by Gary M. Armstrong

Second place — “Afternoon Heavy with the Closeness of Rain” by Brooks Carver

Third place — “Songs for Former Gifted Kids” by Melanie Delbridge

Honorable mention — “The Essence of You” by Dorothy Dobson

Honorable mention — “I am the Sky” by Amos Kipkemoi

Gun rights advocates question proposed assault weapons registration rules

Gun rights advocates question proposed assault weapons registration rules


State Police holds public hearings on registering existing firearms under new ban

By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com
SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Police are facing pushback from gun rights advocates over proposed rules requiring owners of certain firearms to register them before the end of the year.
ISP is in the process of adopting new rules to implement part of the state’s new assault weapons ban – officially named the Protect Illinois Communities Act. 
That law, which lawmakers passed in January, prohibits any new sales or purchases of firearms defined as “assault weapons,” large-capacity magazines and certain kinds of gun attachments. But it says people who already owned those items before the law took effect are allowed to keep them, as long as they register them with ISP before Jan. 1.
About 50 people turned out for a public hearing Thursday in Springfield to comment on proposed rules to implement the registration portion of the law. One of those was state Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, an outspoken opponent of the assault weapons ban, who asked what the state intends to do with people who refuse to register their weapons.
“Hundreds of thousands of people will absolutely not comply,” Halbrook said. “It is up to the governor and the legislature to truly decide if they're prepared to declare war on law-abiding gun owners or not. One thing will be certain. This we will defend: the right to bear arms shall not be infringed.”
The law was passed during a special lame duck session of the General Assembly in January. It came in response to a mass shooting last year at an Independence Day parade in Highland Park that left seven people dead and dozens more injured and traumatized.
The alleged shooter in that massacre is said to have used a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 semiautomatic rifle equipped with three 30-round magazines. 
But some of the people who spoke or submitted comments at the public hearing argued that the law, and the proposed rules, apply to a wide range of firearms and accessories, many of which are in common use by hunters and sportsmen. They also argued that language in the law, which ISP has noted is “very broad,” makes it difficult to know what items are being regulated and what items are exempt.
Although officials at ISP have tried to address those technical questions and concerns with information on its website, those who conducted Thursday’s public hearing were unable to provide immediate answers to many other questions.
“It was frustrating at times,” Josh Witkowski, a lobbyist for the Illinois Federation of Outdoor Resources, said in an interview after the hearing. “You come hoping to get answers and instead get told ‘put your questions in writing.’ It's a little frustrating to come to a public hearing and be told ‘just submit it in writing.’”
Witkowski said gun owners are looking for answers “sooner rather than later” given the fact that registration must occur by Jan. 1.
“And a lot of these firearms, they (gun owners) don't realize have to be registered under the incredibly expansive definitions in the act,” he said.
Gregory Magnuson, an Illinois native who said he moved back to the state in 2021 after living in California for several years, predicted the law will prompt many gun owners to leave Illinois for more gun-friendly states.
“Illinois’ decision to enact the same type of poorly written reactionary gun ban as California will drive any gun owner out of the state who's able to leave,” he said. “Illinois is surrounded by gun-friendly states that would gladly receive patriotic taxpayers as new residents.”
According to data maintained by ISP, there are more than 2.4 million Firearm Owner Identification card holders in Illinois, although not all of them own firearms covered by the assault weapon ban. As of Thursday, only 2,430 individuals had submitted registrations since the agency began accepting them on Oct. 1.
But State Rep. Bob Morgan, D-Deerfield, a lead sponsor of the bill, said at an unrelated event Thursday that he believes people who own such weapons will eventually comply with the law.
“This is new for the state of Illinois. … Historically, we’ve registered people with our FOID card registration,” he said. “This is the first time we’re registering weapons themselves. I also think there are a lot of individuals who have these weapons that are considering whether to sell them to someone out of state, which is a provision in the law that they’re allowed to do.”
Morgan acknowledged that many gun owners may also be waiting for a final decision from federal courts about whether Illinois’ assault weapons ban is constitutional. One federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois has ruled the law is unconstitutional, but two judges in the Northern District have ruled that it is not. Those decisions are now under review by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals and may eventually be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
ISP is scheduled to hold another public hearing at 9:30 a.m. Friday at the Michael A. Bilandic building in Chicago. A final hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday, Nov. 6, at the Caseyville Community Center in the Metro East town of Caseyville.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Scholarship tax credit program among issues still on the table with 3 legislative days remaining

Scholarship tax credit program among issues still on the table with 3 legislative days remaining
GOP leader says he’s ready to compromise as governor keeps ball in lawmakers’ court
By HANNAH MEISEL
& ANDREW ADAMS
Capitol News Illinois
news@capitolnewsillinois.com
Lawmakers will return to Springfield next week for the second half of their fall veto session, giving advocates of a tax credit program for private school scholarships one last chance to push for its extension before it’s set to expire at the end of the year.
The Invest in Kids program is scheduled to reach the end of its five-year life on Dec. 31. The program, which launched in 2018, costs the state $75 million annually in tax breaks for donors to private school scholarship funds. Those funds awarded nearly 10,000 scholarships last year.
Many Democrats in the General Assembly would like to see the program sunset as scheduled, joining Illinois’ largest teachers’ unions in calling it a backdoor voucher program. But some in the majority party – especially those with large private school constituencies – have joined Republicans in pushing for its renewal.
Gov. JB Pritzker’s position on the program has evolved since he first ran for governor in 2018, when part of his campaign platform included ending the scholarship program. Since then, he’s softened his stance at various points, including last month when he said he’d be willing to sign an extension of the program “in whatever form.”
That remark provoked a strong rebuke from the state’s two largest teachers’ unions, which accused Pritzker of siding with “anti-public education Republican governors.”
At an unrelated event Wednesday, the governor’s tone toward the program was ambivalent when asked about it, saying it’s up to the General Assembly, and that “support for public education is really where my focus is.”
“I’ve always said, you know, that we're not trying to prevent people from going to private school, but I also believe in public education and want to make sure that we're funding public education, to the extent that that is possible,” Pritzker said.
He pointed out that the state has increased K-12 education by more than $2 billion in the years since it passed the Invest in Kids Act as part of a broader overhaul of the way Illinois funds public education. 
The law’s built-in sunset means private school scholarship donors can’t claim tax credits for their donations after Dec. 31, although current recipients’ scholarships will still be valid through the spring semester. If the three-fifths majority needed to pass legislation with an immediate effective date during veto session proves too burdensome, there’s a chance lawmakers could take up the issue again in the spring, although the tax credit portion of the program would experience some disruption.
Democrats in the House have proposed a compromise, House Bill 4194, which would scale back the program to $50 million annually from $75 million, along with halving the largest possible donation tax to a scholarship fund from $1 million to $500,000 and changing the tax credit from the current 75 percent for all donations in order to incentivize smaller donors. Democrats also want the scholarships to be more targeted at students from low-income areas.
Senate Republican leader John Curran, R-Downers Grove, said in a news conference Wednesday his caucus is prepared to see the program scaled back for the sake of its survival, noting his GOP colleagues are comfortable with “everything that’s in that proposal.”
“While we would like to see the program made permanent, we realize it’s going to take compromise to get this program extended,” he said. 
A group of ultra-conservative lawmakers, however, called the House Democrats’ proposal a “non-starter” in a recent news release, instead preferring to extend and expand the program. 
Bob Gilligan, executive director of the Catholic Conference of Illinois, an advocate for the program, told Capitol News Illinois that he’s still hopeful for Invest in Kids’ extension.
“There have been many fruitful conversations and with the clock ticking, our message has been consistent: 9,500 kids are waiting for a decision,” Gilligan said.
Other items on the General Assembly’s plate could be punted into regular legislative session in January if they’re not addressed next week, though advocates are still hopeful their issues can be dealt with during lawmakers’ three-day stint in Springfield.

Elected Chicago School board
While most of the state has moved past a bitter partisan fight over redistricting, one part of Illinois is still grappling with how best to sort its population into voting blocs. In 2021, lawmakers approved a measure that will transition the Chicago Board of Education from an appointed body to one that is elected. 
While proponents of the change have said the new policy is a democratizing move, critics have eschewed past drafts as not being representative of the population, echoing the fight over statewide legislative maps last year. 
The legislative committee responsible for devising and approving maps, chaired by Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood, released a new draft Wednesday that features five majority-white districts, seven majority-Black districts, 6 majority-Hispanic districts and two districts with no majority. 
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“This new map better reflects the diversity of Chicago’s unique neighborhoods, and we thank the many parents, educators and community members whose guidance helped shape these district boundaries,” Lightford said in a news release.
The final map will need to be approved by the legislature. 
Chicago residents will vote for 10 members of the 21-person board in November 2024 to serve four-year terms. The other 10 members and the board president will be appointed until 2026, at which point voters would elect their replacements. 

Nuclear moratorium
In August, Gov. JB Pritzker vetoed Senate Bill 76, a bill that would have lifted a state moratorium on nuclear power plant construction originally passed in 1987. 
Despite the veto, the policy still has a few possible routes to becoming law, including via an override vote or as a new bill altogether. 
“We feel like there’s a pathway during veto session,” Sen. Sue Rezin, R-Morris, told Capitol News Illinois on Wednesday.
Curran said Wednesday he expects a bill on the subject to move next week. 
“We know the votes are there in the Senate to pass the bill... And I think the advocacy on the issue continues to be in the House and the House will follow the Senate’s lead and pass the bill as well,” he said. 
The governor explicitly pointed to a lack of safety regulations and loose definitions in SB 76 in his explanation of the veto to lawmakers, sentiments also expressed by environmental groups that lobbied against the policy over the summer. 

Legislative staff unions
The ball is now in the Senate’s court on an issue that has animated debate among Springfield’s political staffers: unionization. 
Last week, the House voted 74-35 to approve a bill, sponsored by Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, D-Hillside, that was prompted by his staff’s efforts to unionize. 
The would-be union’s organizers say they intend to bargain for better wages, hours and working conditions. 
Read more: House approves framework allowing legislative staff to unionize
While voters approved a constitutional amendment last year granting Illinoisans a right to unionize, existing state law explicitly exempts legislative staff from unionizing. Labor experts testified in committee that the law change would be needed to allow staff to unionize due to the amendment’s vague wording. 
While the bill gained momentum in the House, Senate leadership kept quiet on their plans. It remains unclear whether the bill will be called for a vote in that chamber when lawmakers return to Springfield next week. 

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Latest state school report card shows proficiency gains, persistent gaps on racial lines

Latest state school report card shows proficiency gains, persistent gaps on racial lines
Reading, math scores up; graduation rate at 13-year high
By PETER HANCOCK
Capitol News Illinois
phancock@capitolnewsillinois.com
SPRINGFIELD – Elementary and secondary students in Illinois showed consistent improvements in their reading and math scores while the state’s high school graduation rate reached a 13-year high for the most recently concluded school year.
Those are some of the conclusions from the most recent annual statewide school report card, released Monday by the Illinois State Board of Education. The report includes data from the 2022-23 academic year, including results of the standardized tests that students took in the spring.
Although statewide average proficiency rates remained below pre-pandemic levels, the results showed improvement over the previous year across all demographic categories.
“Educators and families should be proud of the remarkable progress we see on the 2023 Illinois report card while remaining focused on understanding and meeting the students’ academic and social emotional needs at this phase of recovery,” State Superintendent of Education Tony Sanders said during a media briefing on the report.
Robin Steans, president of the education advocacy group Advance Illinois, agreed that the report was positive overall, but said it also contains some cautionary information, especially regarding racial achievement gaps and attendance rates.
“I think there is some legitimately encouraging news in the new state report card,” she said in a separate interview. “I think there's also a lot of information that reminds us we've a lot of work to do still.”
The annual report card offers a look at how well individual schools, districts and the state as a whole are performing across a wide range of indicators. In addition to student performance on standardized tests, the report also includes information about factors such as student demographics, graduation rates, college readiness, career and technical education, and school faculty.
Much of the public’s attention, however, focuses on the standardized test scores, which are often seen as an indicator of how effectively schools are teaching the basics of reading, writing and math, and what kind of achievement gaps exist among different demographic groups.

English and math
Overall, the biggest area of improvement over the last year was in English language arts, where the proficiency rate rose from 29.9 percent to 34.6 percent. 
That’s still below the 37.4 percent proficiency rate recorded in the 2018 to 2019 school year – the last before the COVID-19 pandemic caused major interruptions the next few years. But last year’s gain translates to roughly 39,000 more students than the year before who met or exceeded grade level standards in reading and writing.
And while it may seem problematic that only about one-third of all students are considered “proficient” in that subject, Sanders pointed out that Illinois has among the highest standards in the country for English language proficiency.
“So it's not possible to compare our proficiency rates to other states because it's like comparing apples to oranges,” Sanders said.
Equally important, Sanders said, was the fact that there were year-over-year gains across all demographic groups, although significant gaps still exist between those groups.
For example, a significant gap still existed between Black and white students in English language arts proficiency. But on a percentage basis, Black students saw the biggest gains in proficiency rates, rising from 12.1 percent to 16.1 percent – a 33-percent increase.
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Still, the gap between white and Black proficiency rates widened by more than a full percentage point, as did the gap between white and Hispanic students. White students had a proficiency rate of 44.9 percent compared to 22.2 percent of Hispanic students and 16.1 percent for Black students. 
Sanders also emphasized that the low proficiency rates among Black students is more a reflection on the state’s education system than on the students themselves.
“We educate Black students disproportionately in underfunded ‘Tier 1’ school districts with more teacher vacancies, higher teacher and principal turnover, higher chronic absenteeism,” he said, referring to Illinois’ targeted system of education funding in which Tier 1 schools receive the least amount of money from their local property tax base. 
“So our Black students in general have less access to supports, to the resources they need to learn at the rate to be on par with their peers,” Sanders continued.
Math scores also improved in 2023, although the gains were less significant and the overall proficiency rate remained below pre-pandemic levels. White students scored proficiency rates of 35.6 percent, compared to 14.3 percent for Hispanic students and 8 percent for Black students. 
The statewide proficiency rate rose by just over one percentage point, to 26.9 percent, while all demographic groups gained on their scores from the year prior. As with English language arts, Black students saw the biggest gain in proficiency rates, at 1.2 percentage points.

College and career readiness
The report card also includes several indicators of how well students are progressing toward a successful completion of the preK-12 experience and how ready they will be to enter college or the workforce.
Among the most basic of those metrics is the percentage of ninth graders who are on track to graduate. That means at the end of their ninth-grade year, they have earned at least five full-year course credits and have received no more than one semester of an “F” in a core subject such as English, math, science, or social studies.
In 2023, 87.4 percent of ninth-graders were on track to graduate – up from 86.6 percent in 2022, and the same 86.6 percent in 2019. 
According to ISBE, students who finish their ninth-grade year on track are nearly four times as likely to graduate from high school as those who are not on track.
Perhaps the most significant indicator, however, was growth in the state’s high school graduation rate.
In 2023, the four-year graduation rate stood at 87.6 percent, the highest level recorded in at least 13 years. Black and Hispanic students also saw gains in graduation rates over that period.
ISBE did note, however, that the graduation rate was artificially inflated at 88 percent during the pandemic year of 2020 when emergency actions were taken to reduce graduation requirements by one semester.

Chronic absenteeism
One area of concern reflected in the report card was the rate of chronic absenteeism among students, defined as missing 10 percent or more of the school year, regardless of whether it’s an excused or unexcused absence.
Last year, 28.7 percent of students were classified as chronically absent. That was down from just below 30 percent the year before, but it was still well above the pre-pandemic level of 17.5 percent.
The rate was even higher for minority and low-income students – 42.1 percent for Black students; 34.5 for Hispanic students; and 38.2 percent for students classified as low-income.
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“This should be very concerning,” Steans, of Advance Illinois, said. “As I am around the state, this is not lost on anybody. And I think there's a lot of energy and effort going into it, and rightly so. But we're just not back where we want to be, by a lot.”
Overall, Sanders attributed improvements in the 2023 report card to increased funding for public schools, the result of the Evidence-Based Funding formula that went into effect in 2018.
“State funding for education has increased by $2.38 billion since the enactment of EBF, and we see the results in many of the metrics that you see today, but most especially in the four-year graduation rate for our students,” he said.
Steans agreed, saying, “I think it is a reflection that funding is doing what it's meant to do.”
She added that federal pandemic-related funds have also helped schools better educate students.
“I think both of those have been used by schools and districts to put in special supports for students, be they social and mental health supports, be it tutoring, after-school programming, be it bringing in more teachers or more reading specialist instructional coaches, things like that,” she said. “I think both of those funding sources have really been helpful and made a difference.”

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of print and broadcast outlets statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association

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