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Cunningham legislation to improve student teacher background checks passes Illinois Senate

cunningham-bkgrd-chksSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago) has passed legislation in the Illinois Senate to improve the process of criminal background checks on student teachers. The legislation comes after years of talks between the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE), the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Senator Cunningham.

Senate Bill 706 ensures that student teachers will have to go through the same background checks as regular teachers and other school employees. Currently, student teachers are required to get separate background checks for each school they teach at, possibly creating confusion amongst districts and teachers.

“With the many pressures that our educational system is under, I, along with ISBE and the FBI, believe we have found a way to get student teachers doing the job they have been trained to do, while protecting our students from criminals who would prey upon them,” Senator Cunningham said.

Specifically, the legislation requires student teachers to submit to the same safety standards as regular school district employees, including a fingerprint-based criminal history check, a Statewide Sex Offender Database check along with a check of the Statewide Murderer and Violent Offender Databases. State Police and the FBI are required to also furnish any conviction records of prospective student teachers.

“The protection of our students from predators is a priority of ours. In order to keep up with the demand for instructors, I feel we have come up with a plan to not only protect our future leaders, but ensure those who will be their instructors are the best and safest people available,” Senator Cunningham said.

The legislation now goes to the Illinois House for consideration.

Bush moves to update truth in taxation requirements

bush-tax-reqsSPRINGFIELD — In an effort to ensure news of possible tax changes is more readily accessible to the public, State Sen. Melinda Bush advanced legislation out of the Senate that requires taxing districts to post online notices of scheduled tax proposals.

The proposal passed the Illinois Senate with a unanimous 53-0 vote Thursday.

“Taxpayers deserve to know when tax increases are being considered,” Sen. Bush said. “Posting notices online helps disseminate that information more quickly, and gives constituents the most opportunity to register support or opposition to a proposal.”

Current truth in taxation laws require taxing bodies to post notices in newspapers that compare existing property tax levies to their proposed levies.  Under current law, taxing bodies are only required to post in newspapers.

In the new proposal, taxing districts with websites would be required to put such notices on their websites in addition to newspapers.  The new posting requirements will add no additional cost to taxing bodies or taxpayers, and enable easier sharing of proposals via new media like Twitter and Facebook.

“I’m pleased the Senate has joined me in supporting this common-sense approach. It’s a good day when you can provide a public service at no additional cost,” Bush said. “This is a win-win for everyone.”

The legislation is Senate Bill 792. It proceeds to the House for consideration.

Bertino-Tarrant strives to ban caffeine powder during Caffeine Awareness Month

caffeine-powderLast year, 18-year-old Logan Stiner of Ohio died from a caffeine powder overdose.

According to local reports, Stiner was found by his brother, collapsed on the floor of his home. The same day his brother found him, his mother discovered several bags of caffeine powder in their house.

The County Coroner’s report said that Stiner suffered cardia arrhythmia, irregular heartbeat and a seizure as a result of ingesting toxic amounts of caffeine.

Identity theft and student loans: Cornerstones of modern education

lightford-finan-edSPRINGFIELD – Most of us would agree that if we could do high school all over again, knowing what we now know about how the world works, some of our academic questions and concerns might focus on more practical subjects – maybe simply inquiring about how to get through day-to-day adult life unscathed.

How do I stay out of debt? What is the best way to pay back mounting student loans? How do I prevent the guy in the apartment next door from stealing my identity?

New legislation, sponsored by Senate Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford (D – Maywood), would require those questions to be answered in Illinois public high schools. Passing the Senate today, the legislation would add identity-theft security, consumer debt and higher education loans to the list of mandatory subjects to be covered in high school financial literacy courses.

“Preparing the next generation for life after school takes more than preparing them for college courses or even a specific career,” said Senator Lightford. “It is just as important to prepare our students for the scarier aspects of adult life. We need to teach the next generation how to prepare for and avoid some of the most common and severe real world difficulties as they graduate from school, begin a career and start their own families.”

According to a leading producer of identity theft statistics, on average, close to 100 million Americans have their personal identifying information placed at risk of theft each year.

And thanks to climbing tuition and inadequate college savings, 40 million Americans now have at least one outstanding student loan, according to new analyses from credit bureau Experian.

The legislation, Senate Bill 672, now goes to the House for consideration.

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