• Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) discusses the importance of automatic voter registration during a Chicago press conference on February 26, 2016.

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  • Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) shares some of his thoughts on the governor's budget address as it relates to education and education funding reform at a press conference on February 18, 2016.

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  • Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) shares his thoughts immediately following the governor's budget address on February 17, 2016.

  • Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker hill) discusses education funding reform with members of the press at a press conference in East Moline, Illinois on February 8, 2016.

  • state-museumSPRINGFIELD—With the deadline fast approaching for the governor to act, state Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) urged Gov. Bruce Rauner to recognize the importance of the State Museum in Springfield –and its four branch sites— by signing a proposal that would re-open the institutions.

    “The State Museum is a valuable educational, cultural and economic resource for the people of Illinois,” Manar said. “Keeping the museums open has widespread, bipartisan support. Unfortunately, so far, the governor is sticking with his decision to lock out the public. I’m hoping there’s still time to convince him to open the doors and restore access to these terrific public resources.”

    Last October, Gov. Rauner shuttered the five State Museums under the guise of budget cuts and cost savings. However, the collections and displays all remain in place and employees remain on state payroll and report to their jobs in the locked museums.  

    Manar sponsored Senate Bill 317 to ensure that the Department of Natural Resources keeps the State Museums open to the public. The General Assembly approved the plan late last year and the Senate sent it to the governor’s desk on Dec. 9.

    Under the state constitution, Gov. Rauner has until Sunday, Feb. 7 to act on the museum legislation.

  • manar n macManar optimistic for change this year

    VIRDEN – A broken school funding system is cheating North Mac students out of educational resources and opportunities and needs to be changed, state Senator Andy Manar told a crowd Monday that turned out for a town hall meeting hosted by the North Mac School Board.

    “Right now the state is failing our students,” Manar said. “We need a complete overhaul to bring funding and resources to schools and students who need them.”

    Manar, who’s leading efforts in the General Assembly to modernize how the state funds schools, outlined what a new system should look like. The guiding principle, he said, is that funding should target students and schools who need it the most for instance, those serving high numbers of low-income students, students with special needs and other key education and cost factors.

    Local officials joined Manar in calling for sweeping changes to the outdated system now in place.

    “The North Mac Schools have been hit hard financially by the inequitable education funding formula and recent state cuts. We’ve been forced to cut 38 staff and teaching positions and increase class sizes. We’ve also delayed educational improvements and building renovations to ensure the financial survival of the district,” said North Mac School Board President Robyn Hays.

    Manar is hopeful that a new education funding system, one that would recognize North Mac’s educational and financial needs, will be approved this year in Springfield.

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  • manar detectorsCHICAGO—State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) issued the following statement in support of Senate President John Cullerton’s speech detailing the necessity for need-based school funding reform Monday at the City Club of Chicago.

    "Solving our school funding crisis isn't just a downstate problem or a Chicago problem or a suburban problem. The rampant inequity in our public schools affects every community in Illinois.

    “I appreciate Senate President Cullerton’s strong call today for a statewide solution to this statewide challenge. The time has come for Governor Rauner and the General Assembly to take decisive action to end the least equitable system in America," Manar said.

  • cpslogoSPRINGFIELD - The following statement was released by Senate President John J. Cullerton regarding Republican leaders misdirected ideas on Chicago Public Schools:

    “This is not going to happen. It’s mean spirited and evidence of their total lack of knowledge of the real problems facing Chicago Public Schools. The unfair treatment of pension systems by the state is the immediate cause of CPS’ financial problem. That situation ought to be addressed rather than promoting this far-fetched notion that the state is somehow in the position to take over Chicago schools. This ridiculous idea only serves as a distraction from the state’s problems that these two state leaders should be focusing on.”

  • manar lgdfTAYLORVILLE – Illinois’ outdated, unfair system of school funding is forcing Taylorville public schools to consider laying off teachers and staff, consolidate schools and eliminate athletic programs. Taylorville Community Unit School District 3 is faced with the challenge of cutting $680,000 from its budget under a state system that defunds downstate school districts.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) and Taylorville CUSD 3 Superintendent Gregg Fuerstenau spoke out for the need at a press conference at North Elementary School on Tuesday.

    “The state is failing Taylorville. The school board and the district are doing everything they can to make due with less and have been taking extremely difficult financial decisions for years. Regardless of these savings the schools are being strangled by a funding system that has no connection to the realities of teaching students,” Manar said.

    “We have great teachers and staff and provide our students with the best resources that we can afford. But we can only do so much under Illinois' unfair school funding structure. Our students are in desperate need of a balanced funding structure that treats down state students fairly. A student’s zip code should not matter,” Fuerstenau said.

    “As a public school teacher for more than 30 years, I know firsthand how students are harmed by inadequate funding and resources," Scherer said.

    "It’s a struggle for any teacher to give individualized attention to his or her students and meet each child’s unique needs. Research shows that large class size is the number one detriment to teaching and learning, and to backslide into large class sizes would only short students of many opportunities for growth. It is unconscionable for the state to do anything other than fairly and equally fund all schools, no matter where the students come from,” Scherer said.

    The Illinois State Board of Education has recognized the district for its sound finances.

    Taylorville teachers already take home smaller paychecks than the statewide average and the district’s administrative costs are within the lowest 10 percent of unit districts in the state.

    To educate students, the school district can only afford to spend $7,163 dollars per student, well below the state average of $12,521. Students and teachers must also cope with above average class sizes.

    The state has made minor improvements to increase funding to districts like Taylorville. This year’s state school budget set aside extra money for financially distressed school districts. Under this increase Taylorville schools receive an additional $53,000.

    Despite increased funding and cost-cutting measures, the district is still facing the difficult decision to cut another $680,000.

    Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Taylorville based on the needs of their students. Under the reform plan, Taylorville public schools could see an additional $1.07 million in annual state aid.

  • manar cwlp billSPRINGFIELD – The state of Illinois owes Springfield’s City, Water, Light and Power more than $9 million in unpaid and overdue utility bills as a result of vetoes by Gov. Rauner.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) have introduced legislation requiring the state to pay these bills.

    “There’s no way any normal customer could go half a year without paying utility bills. The state is still a customer and its failure to pay is having a $9 million impact on Springfield and its residents who face potential increased utility costs,” Manar said.

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  • COdetectorSPRINGFIELD – A new law aims to protect students and staff in Illinois public schools from the dangers of carbon monoxide leaks.

    More than a year ago, a faulty exhaust pipe at North Mac Intermediate School in Girard sent 150 students and staff to the hospital for carbon monoxide poisoning. Since last September, the school has installed carbon monoxide detectors, but at the time there were none.

    Legislation requiring schools to install carbon monoxide detectors was signed into law this summer and it goes into effect Jan. 1. State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored the proposal.

    “What happened in Girard could happen at any school. If it weren’t for smart, quick actions from staff, that incident could have been a tragedy. Schools have a solemn obligation to protect their students and we need to ensure their safety by preventing anything like this happening again,” Manar said.

    In a similar incident this month, 104 teachers and students were hospitalized after a carbon monoxide leak at Horace Mann Elementary School in Chicago. The school had detectors which allowed staff to evacuate the school before any students were injured, and all the hospitalizations were precautionary.

    Chicago Public Schools had just finished installing detectors after a similar incident in October last year at Harper High School in Chicago.

    The law will require schools to install detectors within 20 feet of equipment that produces carbon monoxide. School buildings without carbon monoxide sources would be exempt.

    The legislation, House Bill 152 was negotiated with the Illinois Association of School Boards and the Illinois School Management Alliance, which represent the interests of school administrators in Springfield.

    California, Connecticut and Maryland have similar requirements for carbon monoxide detectors in school buildings.

  • manar museums 8 7 15SPRINGFIELD – One Bunker Hill student asked a question and a new law that goes into effect with the new year is answering it.

    Maddie Heflin, a fifth-grader at Wolf Ridge Elementary School, wondered why there isn’t playground equipment that kids with disabilities can use.

    Luckily one of the people she asked was State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill).

    “Accessible playground equipment exists but she wanted to know why it isn’t in our parks and playgrounds. If we can provide equipment that lets them play freely with their classmates, it will promote acceptance and inclusion of students with disabilities,” Manar said.

    Maddie’s question lead to House Bill 3457, which is now a new law directing the Illinois Department of Natural resources to prioritize park grants to purchase accessible playground equipment. Manar sponsored the proposal in the Senate.

    The proposal was approved by the lawmakers this spring and signed by the governor. It goes into effect Jan. 1.

    Grants from DNR’s outdoor recreation program are already prioritized based on the useful life of facilities, safety needs and other factors. This proposal adds universally accessible swings, ground-level play features, wheelchair-accessible tables and ramped equipment to that list of priorities.

    “Maddie’s question and her concern for others is what led to the creation of this law. Thanks to her help every student will have a chance to participate, and it will teach children at a young age to ignore any stigma around disability,” Manar said.

  • sb2039 passes

  • manar 120715SPRINGFIELD — State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) voted in favor of legislation releasing funding for road and bridge funding to local governments in Macon and Sangamon Counties on Monday.

    The money comes from the city, county and township share of the state gas tax. Last year governments in the county received $4.8 million for this share of the funds with a similar funds expected this year.

    “Without this money, governments have been unable to perform basic road maintenance and repair, prepare for winter weather and many workers faced layoffs. This funding is vital for the most basic duties of government, and I’m hopeful that progress can continue,” Manar said.

    The gas tax funding is typically awarded automatically but vetoes by the governor this summer froze the money in state accounts.

    The road funding was part of a $3.1 billion budget package approved by the Senate that also includes money for 911 emergency systems, domestic violence shelters, emergency services training, GED programs and vocational training.

    The legislation also provides money for the Illinois Department of Transportation to buy road salt and perform winter highway maintenance.

    It includes $165 million for the state’s assistance to seniors and low-income families to help with winter energy and heating costs. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, is funded through a combination of state and federal dollars. The federal funding has been going to families but the state’s portion has been held up by the budget impasse.

    The legislation also gives local governments their share of gaming revenue and allows the Illinois Lottery to pay winners.

    The Senate passed this legislation, Senate Bill 2039, with bipartisan support and the bill will next go to the governor for approval.

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