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Sen. Noland supports school funding reform

noland-edreform-020315State Senator Michael Noland (D-Elgin) adds his support to the School Funding Reform Act of 2015 that was introduced today at a press conference by chief sponsor Senator Andy Manar.
The act creates a new need-based funding formula for the distribution of state dollars to school districts. It is a revised version of last year’s Senate Bill 16, which passed the Senate in May, and is being introduced this session as an amendment to SB 1.
“It is time we ensure children in struggling school districts have the same opportunity for success as those in more affluent districts,” said Noland, a chief co-sponsor of the bill. “When we fail to educate our students, we pay down the line. This is a chance to make education funding more sustainable for all, a chance to support our student’s futures and a stronger economy for Illinois.”
The new formula would replace the nearly two decade old General State Aid formula with one rooted in understanding the varying needs and abilities of specific school districts.
State education officials are in the process of projecting how the changes will affect specific school districts.

Details of Manar school funding reform unveiled

SB1presser020315The statewide effort to transform Illinois school funding is continuing at the Capitol.

State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Rep. Will Davis (D-Hazel Crest) and Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago) joined supporters to announce updates to last year’s need-based reform proposal and called for increased overall school funding during a press conference Tuesday.

Manar introduced the School Funding Reform Act of 2015 as an amendment to Senate Bill 1. It replaces Senate Bill 16 from last year and the previous General Assembly. The announcement follows the Illinois State Board of Education’s call for a 10.7 percent increase in school spending last month.

“There’s an obvious need to make school funding more fair and transparent, but there’s also an undeniable need to increase funding as a whole. These updates are grounded in the basic principle that we should give help where it is needed,” Manar said.

Davis introduced identical legislation in the House.

“Through it all, we listened to what has been said and heard the concerns. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and including the need for more revenue,” Davis said.

The proposal replaces the General State Aid formula and a web of complex, opaque grants with a single, need-based funding formula that improves accountability and transparency.

“This is the civil rights issue of our time. Equity in education funding is essential for leveling the playing field, so that talent and hard work, not zip code, determine a child’s chance to succeed. I’m happy to support the Governor’s call for $729 million of new education funds, but this bill is essential with or without the increase,” Mitchell said.

“The time to change Illinois' school funding formula to provide equity is now. It's time to send funds to kids based on their individual needs, not their zip codes,” said Tony Sanders, CEO of DuPage County’s U-46 school district.

The updates to last year’s proposal include a method of comparing regional costs, a more accurate way of measuring poverty, improved reporting for bilingual education and sends additional funding to districts with higher-than-average rates of students with special education needs.

The new provisions also expedite a study to determine the base level of funding needed for student growth, and it protects districts from losses that are not spending adequately.

ISBE is in the process of projecting how these changes will affect individual school districts.

A briefing document detailing the background and structure of the bill is attached.


Manar backs high-speed rail oversight commission

High-speed rail oversight commission

High-speed-rail-conferenceAs Illinois and the city of Springfield prepare for high-speed rail, a local advocacy group is championing legislation to ensure more transparency and accountability throughout the process.

The Faith Coalition for the Common Good, State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Rep. Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) announced a proposal to create the Springfield High-Speed Rail Oversight Commission during a press conference Thursday.

“Despite our best efforts, local decision makers have not kept the promises they made when they signed our rail community benefits agreement. Minority workforce hours have not been made public and the community affected by rail relocation has been left out of the decision making process,” Leroy Jordan, Faith Coalition for the Common Good Rail Task Force Leader, said.

Manar and Scherer will introduce legislation creating a bipartisan commission made up of lawmakers and community leaders to oversee the 10th Street Rail Corridor project.

The commission would be responsible for ensuring guidelines laid out in the program’s community benefits agreement are followed. These guidelines include funding for job training programs, ensuring disadvantaged hiring and contracting objectives are followed. The community benefits agreement sought to include members of the affected communities in the railroad decision-making process.

“Openness and accountability are the keys to success of any government project. We simply want to make sure this project benefits the affected community as much as possible,” Manar said.

"Ensuring the community has a voice in all taxpayer-funded projects is essential," Scherer said. "The High-Speed Rail Oversight Commission will add an extra layer of accountability and transparency, which citizens of Springfield need and deserve."

The commission will have the authority to hold hearings to measure the progress of the project and the fulfillment of these goals. Members of the commission will report to state, county and city officials detailing their findings.

The Faith Coalition for the Common Good is a central Illinois organization of faith and community leaders who work together to identify and correct issues affecting the region.

Morrison: No e-cigs for kids

morrison-ecigState Senator Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) believes that Illinois law has a loophole that needs to be fixed: it’s illegal to provide minors with e-cigarettes and other tobacco-free nicotine products, but it’s not illegal for children to have them.

“Two years ago we made it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone under the age of 18,” Morrison said. “It’s common sense that if it’s illegal to sell these products to kids, it should be illegal for kids to have them.”

Though e-cigarettes don’t produce the toxic, cancer-causing smoke of traditional tobacco products, they still pose real health risks. Nicotine is an addictive chemical that can act as an immunosuppressive. It can affect fetal brain development. It also can permanently alter growth and function of the nervous system, potentially leading to depression and anxiety. The long-term health effects of various other chemicals in e-cigarettes have not yet been thoroughly evaluated.

In Illinois, it is already illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to possess cigarettes, cigars and all other forms of tobacco. The penalty for the first violation is a fine of $25 or 15 hours of community service, and the maximum penalty for repeated violations is a fine of $100 and 30 hours of community service.

Morrison’s plan would impose the same penalties for the possession of e-cigarettes and other alternative nicotine products.

The legislation is Senate Bill 32.

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