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  • manar lgdfTAYLORVILLE – Illinois’ outdated, unfair system of school funding is forcing Taylorville public schools to consider laying off teachers and staff, consolidate schools and eliminate athletic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.

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  • 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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    As Illinois students begin preparing for mid-terms, Chairman Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill) assembled the Senate’s Higher Education Committee at Joliet Junior College to hear from students, parents and state community colleges and universities on the impact the current budget impasse is having on higher education in Illinois.

    “Time's a'wastin' - first semester already has started. Governor Rauner, get on board,” McGuire said. “Support MAP and higher education funding so Illinois high school graduates and returning adults can earn the knowledge and skills needed in today's economy to make our state strong again.”

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  • manar lgdfSPRINGFIELD – Almost 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 Thursday. State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored the proposal.

    “Last year, Girard could have faced an unimaginably horrific tragedy. We have an obligation to protect children while at school and ensure something like this can’t happen again,” Manar said.

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

    “We always look for lessons learned, and installing the detectors was a preventative measure that we needed to take to assure everyone that our schools are safe from this threat,” said North Mac Superintendent Marica Cullen.

    A similar incident occurred last October at Harper High School in Chicago when the school was evacuated and nine students were hospitalized.

    State Representative Kathleen Willis (D-Addison) sponsored the proposal in the House.

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

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

    The new law, House Bill 152, takes effect Jan. 1, 2016.

  • manar hi speed railSPRINGFIELD – A proposal creating a commission that will oversee Springfield’s 10th Street Rail Corridor was signed into law Wednesday.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Representative Sue Scherer (D-Decatur) sponsored the commission that aims to increase transparency and ensure accountability in minority hiring.

    Manar and Scherer credited citizen participation, specifically the Faith Coalition for the Common Good, for this commission becoming a reality.

  • manar museums 8 7 15SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Senate voted Tuesday to require the Illinois State Museum system to stay open despite the ongoing budget impasse.

    State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) sponsored the proposal to keep the Illinois State Museum open along with its branch sites: Dickson Mounds, Lockport Gallery, Southern Illinois Artisans Shop and Southern Illinois Art Gallery at Rend Lake and the Illinois Artisans Shop and Chicago Gallery.

    “The Illinois State Museum brings the outside world to Illinois students, families and scientists. There are very real financial and social costs to closing the museum,” Manar said.

    The proposal, Senate Bill 317, requires the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to keep the museums open by law.

    “The strong outpouring of public support for the museum has been the main motivator behind this legislation. People across the state care deeply about this museum and the opportunities and services it provides,” Manar said.

    The Senate approved the legislation Tuesday and now moves to the House for debate.

  • mcguire manar museumsSPRINGFIELD - The Illinois Senate late Tuesday afternoon voted overwhelmingly to keep the Illinois State Museum and its five branches open. Gov. Bruce Rauner has moved to shutter the headquarters museum in Springfield as well as sites in Chicago, Dickson Mounds, Lockport, and Rend Lake. The vote on SB 317 was 40-9, with an additional 5 senators voting present.

    The legislation’s primary sponsor is Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), in whose district the headquarters museum sits. Sen. Pat McGuire (D-Crest Hill), whose district includes the Illinois State Museum-Lockport Gallery, is a chief co-sponsor. McGuire explained the benefits of the Lockport site during floor debate on the proposal.

    “The Lockport Gallery not only has aesthetic and educational value,” McGuire said, “it also has economic value.” McGuire said gallery visitors patronize downtown Lockport shops and restaurants. “This increases sales tax revenue and enlarges the property tax base,” he said.

    The measure now goes to the House for approval. On Wednesday, the legislature’s Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability casts an advisory vote on the Governor’s action to shut the entire Illinois State Museum system.

  • 30436737336 4bc59f3a5c bSPRINGFIELD – Out-of-state online retailers will have to pay their fair share of local sales taxes – just like local companies must do – if they want to do business in Illinois, according to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling today that garnered praise from State Senator Cristina Castro.

    “Times are different now, and a lot of people do their shopping online. It is important that out-of-state businesses are held accountable to their share of state revenues,” said Castro, an Elgin Democrat and the sponsor of a successful bipartisan measure that was contingent upon today’s ruling. That plan was incorporated into the state budget that was signed into law June 4.

    Previously, out-of-state e-commerce retailers do not have to collect a sales tax, a practice that undercuts local retailers and denies revenue for local needs, such as road, bridge and sewer repairs.