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The Majority Report 05/11/18 - Pensions, bigotry, K2 capture Senate's attention


School leaders warn against Rauner’s pension cost shift plan

School leaders warn against Rauner’s pension cost shift plan

School superintendents on Wednesday cautioned against Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to shift teacher pension costs onto local districts, saying the move would undo any gains made under the new education funding formula.

The panel of school leaders testified during a joint hearing of the Senate’s two budget committees, chaired by State Senators Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill). Committee members are trying to better understand the consequences of Rauner’s plan to burden schools with $500 million in new costs next year.

Brad Skertich, superintendent of Southwestern Community Unit Schools in southern Macoupin County, said he’s finally felt a period of relief in budgeting this year but fears the governor’s plan will end that stability.

“For the first time in nearly a decade, we switched from survival mode to improving the quality of education for our students,” he told the committee. He said school funding reform was a step forward but feared a pension cost shift would be “two steps backward.”

Danville School District 118 Superintendent Alicia Geddis’ testimony reminded committee members of the demands beyond teaching that face schools. Despite the district's long-term financial challenges, Geddis said her schools are trying their best to stitch together a social service safety net for the 5,900 children they serve, 77 percent of whom are considered low income.

“District 118 is the second largest mental health provider in Vermilion County,” she said, noting that costs associated with services like suicide prevention or other mental health ailments aren’t necessarily something she can anticipate. Meanwhile, a pension cost shift would cost her district $3 million extra.

In the news: School districts push back on state’s budget fix
In the news: Senate Dems denounce pension cost shift as budget deadline approaches


Senate uses its muscle to ‘fight back against bigotry’

Senate Latino Caucus members joined Senate President John Cullerton, State Senator Don Harmon and immigrant and refugee rights advocates

Senate Latino Caucus members joined Senate President John Cullerton, State Senator Don Harmon and immigrant and refugee rights advocates this week to discuss actions the Senate has taken to protect immigrant communities.

“I’m the son of hard-working immigrants, and as an elected official it is my honor and duty to support policies that continue to give the immigrant community the opportunities my family has had in the United States of America,” said State Senator Martin Sandoval, a Chicago Democrat and co-chairman of the Senate Latino Caucus.

Legislation recently approved by the Senate includes:

  • Protection for immigrant crime victims who cooperate with police – Senate Bill 34, sponsored by Senate President Cullerton.
  • Professional licenses for qualified workers regardless of immigration status – Senate Bill 3109, sponsored by State Senator Iris Martinez (D-Chicago).
  • The Immigrant Safe Zones Act limiting police assistance with immigration enforcement at public schools and libraries, state government buildings and state-funded health care facilities – Senate Bill 35, sponsored by Harmon.
  • A measure barring landlords from evicting or harassing tenants on the basis of their immigration status – Senate Bill 3103, sponsored by State Senator Cristina Castro (D-Elgin).

Read more about the proposals.

“Donald Trump is trying to take away these opportunities in the land that I love,” Sandoval said, “but policies like these give hope to our people and show we are a force that can use our sacred legislative process to fight back against bigotry.”

In the news: Illinois Senate votes to protect residents from registering their faith
In the news: Hearing set on measure to expand immigration safe zones in Illinois


Collins on K2 ban: ‘We must act now to stop future deaths’

Sen. Jacqueline Y. CollinsA wave of deaths and hospitalizations in Illinois connected to a deadly strain of synthetic cannabis prompted the state Senate to act by approving a plan to broaden the classification of such drugs.

The proposal, sponsored by State Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago), is an attempt to address the problem of synthetic cannabis producers who skirt the law by making small and potentially deadly tweaks to their products’ chemical formulas.

“We can’t afford to be stuck in a cycle of reacting to these irresponsible and deadly chemistry experiments,” she said. “We must act now to stop future deaths.”

Synthetic cannabis, commonly known as K2, has caused 99 cases of severe illness or hemorrhaging, some of which were fatal, in Illinois since March.

Read more.

Video: Collins discusses Senate Bill 2341
In the news: Illinois lawmakers weigh ban on all formulas of synthetic pot after deaths


Senators welcome students to Capitol for TECH 2018

Students and teachers from dozens of Illinois schools came to the Capitol for the TECH 2018 Student Technology Showcase to demonstrate for lawmakers how they are using computers and technology in the classroom.

Since 1990, students and teachers have set up displays to show off their classroom projects and demonstrate how technology is the enabling tool of the modern learning environment. The schools facilitate access to tools and resources that promote accountability, communication, collaboration, creativity and critical thinking. Students then plan and develop what they will present and demonstrate at TECH day.

Featuring projects from elementary through high school classes, the annual event is planned by Illinois Computing Educators.

Visit our gallery of photographs from the showcase and click the image below to watch our video featuring State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) and students from his district.


In case you missed it


Senate President John Cullerton, Chicago: To meet budget deadline, Rauner pushing for revenue estimate, more leader meetings | NPR Illinois

Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Shorewood: Bertino-Tarrant continues statewide education tour | The Telegraph, Alton

Senator Melinda Bush, Grayslake: Illinois Senate to get involved in Foxconn squabble with Wisconsin | The Journal-Times, Racine, Wisconsin

Senator James F. Clayborne Jr., Belleville: Bill would allow Wolfe Branch to borrow money to repair sinking school | Belleville News Democrat

Senator Tom Cullerton, Villa Park: Veterans home disease outbreak notification requirement heads to Rauner’s desk | Decatur Herald & Review

Senator Bill Cunningham, Chicago: Cunningham passes measure designed to curb carjackers | Chicago Citizens Newspaper

Senator Bill Haine, Alton: Motorists are still being charged high tow release fees after state lowers the fee | KPLR-TV, St. Louis

Senator Toi Hutchinson, Chicago Heights: Measure would require sexual harassment policies at firms doing state business | Illinois Business Journal

Senator Michael Hastings, Tinley Park: Illinois bill would raise penalties for assault on DCFS workers | The Associated Press

Senator Linda Holmes, Aurora: Illinois bill looks to expand enrollment at high school | The Associated Press

Senator Kimberly Lightford, Maywood: Lightford works to implement school resource officer training | The Chicago Crusader

Senator Andy Manar, Bunker Hill: Legislators want to boost K-12 substitute teacher rolls | Illinois Business Journal

Senator Pat McGuire, Joliet: Multi-use bike path in Channahon to make use of federal funds | The Herald-News, Joliet

Senator Julie Morrison, Deerfield: Morrison talks tax deductions, redistricting at town hall | Chicago Tribune

Senator Patricia Van Pelt, Chicago: State lawmakers promise action on gang database | Austin Weekly News


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