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Quick Hit
by Aricka Flowers
Fri Oct 14

Chicago Tribune Endorses Duckworth Over Kirk, Bringing Incumbent's Health Into Play

The Chicago Tribune has endorsed U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) in the race for Illinois' senate seat. The newspaper has previously endorsed incumbent Mark Kirk (R) in each of his races for political office.

In January of 2012, Kirk suffered an ischemic stroke, returning to Congress a year later. Kirk has been declared mentally fit to do his job as a congressman and regained use of his left side, but he does use a cane or wheelchair and sometimes appears to struggle with his speech.

The newspaper took the congressman's current state of health into consideration in opting to support his challenger in the November election.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Thu Oct 13

UNO Charter School Teachers Rally For A 'Fair Contract' As Potential Strike Looms (VIDEO)

With a potential strike looming, unionized Chicago teachers at the UNO Charter School Network (UCSN) rallied with their allies Thursday afternoon in their push for a "fair contract."

They picketed outside the charter network's downtown headquarters, 209 W. Jackson Boulevard, with signs that read: "We don't want to strike but we're ready" and "We will fight for a fair contract."

"Our students are all low income, and (UCSN has) offices down here in this fancy building, and they're not willing to make cuts at the top" to improve the quality of education for students, said Erica Stewart.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Oct 12

Duckworth Talks College Affordability At UIC, Responds To Kirk's New Attack Ad

U.S. Rep. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL,8) was at the University of Illinois at Chicago Wednesday morning to talk with students about higher education and college affordability. 

"I can't think of something more important as an investment to our nation than making sure that we make college affordable, and that we get to a point where students are not starting off life with tremendous amounts of student loan debt," Duckworth told reporters after the town hall.

The event, sponsored by UIC student organizations and Young Invincibles Action, was supposed to be a candidate forum, but Kirk declined to participate, Duckworth said. 

The congresswoman used the event to detail college affordability proposals she is sponsoring in the U.S. House, namely the "In the Red Act." The proposal would adjust Pell Grants for inflation, allow borrowers to refinance student debt at lower interest rates and provide students with two years of tuition-free community college.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Sep 30

U.S. Students Continue To Face 'Unacceptable Levels' Of Bullying, Survey Finds

Despite an increase over the past decade in anti-bullying policies and other measures to promote safe school environments, biased language, bullying and harassment continue to be the norm at many U.S. middle and high schools.

That's according to the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), which released its 2015 school climate survey on Wednesday. The report is an update of the group's school climate survey from 2005.

"Overall, bullying still persists at unacceptable levels, and the gains of the past ten years throw the more intractable aspects of the problem into higher relief. LGBTQ students still face rates of violence much higher relative to their peers," GLSEN's Executive Director Eliza Byard said in the report's preface.

"Teachers report that they are less comfortable and less prepared to address the harsh conditions faced by transgender and gender nonconforming students. And amidst progress in reducing the use of most types of biased language in schools, racist language remains as prevalent as it was a decade ago," she continued.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Sep 28

Chicago Teachers Union Sets October 11 Strike Date

The Chicago Teachers Union's governing body approved an October 11 strike date Wednesday, putting the union one step closer toward its second walkout since 2012. 

"If we cannot reach an agreement by then, we will withhold our labor," CTU President Karen Lewis told reporters Wednesday evening after a special meeting of the union's House of Delegates. 

CTU and school district officials have yet to agree on a new labor contract to replace the one that expired in June 2015.

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Wed Sep 28

Report: U.S. Taxpayers Subsidized $725 Million In Wall Street CEO Bonuses In The Last Four Years

Twenty leading U.S. banks collectively paid their top five executives $2 billion in tax-deductible bonuses between 2012 and 2015, according to a recent report examining Wall Street CEO pay.

That $2 billion figure works out to be a tax break valued at $725 million, or $1.7 million per executive per year, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a progressive think tank, found.

"Taxpayers should not have to subsidize excessive CEO bonuses at any corporation," report co-author and IPS Global Economy Project Director Sarah Anderson said in a statement. "But such subsidies are particularly troubling when they prop up a pay system that encourages the reckless behavior which caused one devastating national crisis -- and could cause more in the future."

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Fri Sep 23

Report: Income Inequality Is Worse For Black Workers Today Than In 1979

Racial wage gaps are wider today than in 1979 due largely to discrimination and growing income inequality, according to new research from the Economic Policy Institute.

The average wage gap between black and white workers was 18.1 percent in 1979, with the gap widening to 26.7 percent in 2015, the left-leaning think tank reports.

Rutgers University economist William M. Rodgers III co-authored the report with Valerie Wilson, director of EPI's Program on Race, Ethnicity and the Economy.

"We've found that racial wage gaps are growing primarily due to discrimination -- and other unmeasured and unobserved characteristics-- along with rising inequality in general," Rodgers said. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Sep 19

Refugee Resettlement Surges In Chicago, Local Experts Say

The number of people seeking sanctuary in the Chicago area is growing significantly, according to a local agency that helps refugees resettle in the city.

"Right now, we are experiencing a really crazy surge in arrivals," Lea Tienou told an audience of college students as well as immigrant and refugee service providers and advocates.

Tienou is associate director of refugee family adjustment and employment services at the Heartland Alliance. She spoke Monday afternoon at DePaul University's Loop campus as part of a panel discussion about the global refugee crisis. 

The Heartland Alliance typically sees about 20 refugees per month, Tienou explained. Just in the last month, however, 100 refugees came to the agency, and 90 more are expected to seek assistance from the Heartland Alliance in September.

"It's been a really busy time, and this is throughout the country that we're seeing a really large influx of arrivals," she said. 

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
Mon Sep 19

Proposed Constitutional Amendment Seeks To Protect Illinois Transportation Funding

When Illinoisans hit the polls in November, they will see a proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot asking whether the state should put transportation funding in a "lockbox" so that it cannot be used for non-related spending.

If the amendment passes, the Illinois Constitution would be amended to ensure transportation funding is safeguarded from being spent on other purposes, like balancing the state budget.

Citizens to Protect Transportation Funding, a coalition of business, labor and construction groups, is leading the advocacy effort in support of the so-called "Safe Roads Amendment," which made it onto the November 8 ballot after strong bipartisan approval from the state legislature.