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Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
11:59am
Thu Apr 17

CPS Students Want State Lawmakers To Fix 'Broken' School Discipline Policies

A group of Chicago students is ratcheting up the pressure on state lawmakers to get behind "common-sense" school disciplinary policies.

Students leaders with Voices of Youth in Chicago Education (VOYCE) argue zero tolerance discipline policies have resulted in zero gains in schools across the state. Dozens of students demonstrated at the Chicago Public Schools' (CPS) downtown headquarters Wednesday morning before marching to the Thompson Center to call on state officials, including Gov. Pat Quinn, to fix "broken" school discipline policies across Illinois. The group wants state lawmakers to set limitations on the use of disciplinary actions that eat up classroom learning time and have a disproportionate impact on students of color.

"Students want to stay in school. Students want to learn, and they want discipline (policies) that make sense," said Jose Sanchez, VOYCE's Safe Schools Consortium coordinator. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
2:22pm
Wed Apr 16

Chicago Activists To Demand A Stop To Deportations On May Day

Activists participating in the upcoming May Day workers' march and celebration in the city of Chicago will deliver a clear message to President Barack Obama — two million deportations is too many.

May 1, or May Day, is an international day of honoring workers. Since 2006, an annual May Day rally has been held in Chicago, highlighting immigrant rights as an important aspect of the workers' rights debate.

Thousands of people attended last year'sMay Day event in the city to rally for comprehensive immigration reform legislation, which is now stalled in Congress.

This year, the main message is about deportations. The goal is to "try and keep the pressure on the [Obama] administration to do everything that's in their power to defer action to a broader group of immigrants working here in the United States, and do that quickly," said Susan Hurley with Chicago Jobs with Justice.

"We have approached or passed a milestone of 2 million people being deported [under the Obama administration], and that's just too many families being separated," she added. "It's got to stop, and if we can't get legislation that will fix our broken system, then we need to back off the deportations until we can get that legislation."  Read more »

Quick Hit
by Public News Service
12:57pm
Wed Apr 16

Analysis: 64,000 Long-Term Unemployed Illinoisans Still Without Work

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - New data shows how the reauthorization of federal unemployment assistance could help 64,000 Illinoisans.

When federal long-term unemployment benefits ended in December, according to the analysis from the Illinois Department of Employment Security, 74,000 Illinois workers immediately lost their temporary help. Jay Rowell, the department's director, said 86 percent of them still were without work one month later.

"This seriously undermines the idea that unemployment insurance discourages people from finding employment," Rowell said. "To get unemployment, you had to have been working and lost your job through no fault of their own. So these were people who were working before, have been looking for work, and just haven't been able to find it."
  Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ashlee Rezin
5:05pm
Tue Apr 15

On Tax Day, Activists Urge Illinoisans To Support A Graduated Income Tax (VIDEO)

Considering taxes are on the minds of many today, activists gathered outside of a downtown Chicago post office to campaign for a graduated income tax rate in Illinois.

“This flat tax that people in this state are burdened with right now is totally unfair and makes the poor and middle class pay more in taxes than people who can really afford it,” said Bob Gallie, a volunteer for A Better Illinois.

Gallie was one of a handful of activists with the statewide coalition who passed out literature in Federal Plaza, 230 S. Dearborn St., Tuesday afternoon, urging people to support a “fair” tax, which would implement higher tax rates for those with higher income levels, and lower rates for people who bring in less income.

With the use of the group's Illinois Fair Tax Calculator, activists were able to show people passing through the plaza that they could likely save money on their taxes if the state had a progressive tax rate. Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
4:43pm
Tue Apr 15

Illinois Social Service Providers Brace For A 'Tough' Budgetary Year

The philanthropic and non-profit community in Illinois is bracing itself for what is expected to be a "painful" budgetary year.

"It's going to be tough," said Valerie Lies, president and CEO of the Donors Forum, a member association working to strengthen the state's philanthropic and non-profit sector. "I feel like we haven't even started to dig ourselves out, and I think [this] gubernatorial election will be an important one." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
9:24pm
Mon Apr 14

Durbin Joins Congressmen In Unveiling Report On E-Cigarette Marketing Practices, Presses FDA For Regulatory Action

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) hopes a report issued Monday detailing the marketing tactics used by electronic cigarette companies will coerce the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to take regulatory action on the products.

E-cigarettes are currently free from numerous sales, marketing and product regulations at the federal level that apply to traditional cigarettes.

Durbin and 11 other Democratic lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate launched a joint investigation into the marketing practices of nine companies that make commonly sold e-cigarette brands including MarkTen, Vuse, NJOY King, Eonsmoke, LOGIC, V2 Cigs, VaporCouture, Blu, Green Smoke and White Cloud. The investigation's findings were revealed Monday. The report shows a recent uptick in e-cigarette marketing, including tactics that Durbin says appeal to minors.

"E-cigarettes are a candy-flavored addiction, which is dangerous to our young people across America," the senator said on a press call Monday morning about the new report. "It is growing in popularity among children and sadly poses serious public health threats." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
6:36pm
Fri Apr 11

Report: TIFs Play A Role In Chicago's Pension Crisis

With the media and public spotlight on Chicago's pension crisis, the non-partisan research center Good Jobs First is turning the attention to the city's controversial tax increment financing, or TIF, program.

In its recent "Putting Municipal Pension Costs Into Context: Chicago" report, the Washington, D.C.-based group asserts that the TIF program has played a part in the underfunding of pensions in the city.

"It's really hard to ignore the evidence that TIF has had some sort of impact on pensions," said Tommy Cafcas, research analyst at Good Jobs First, which works to promote corporate and government accountability.

"We know that TIF costs grew, and they started growing really quickly after 2000. We know that general fund revenues declined ... and we know that the city addressed its budget gap in part by making inadequate contributions to public pensions, so it seems reasonable that TIF plays a role in how the city thinks about addressing the pension issue." Read more »

Quick Hit
by Public News Service
10:49am
Fri Apr 11

One In Two Illinoisans Struggles With Reading

Adult literacy goes beyond being able to curl up with a good book.  Experts say reading struggles also can translate into troubles functioning in an ever-changing world. 

Dorothy Miaso, executive director of Literacy Volunteers of Illinois, says being literate means knowing how to be successful within a family, community and workplace. 

She says studies show that one in every two adults has difficulties in one of those areas.

"They may not be able to compute as well, use technological equipment," she explains. "Math has always been a problem. They may not be able to follow editorials, and another thing is health literacy."
  Read more »

Quick Hit
by Ellyn Fortino
5:38pm
Thu Apr 10

Education Activists Call CPS Per-Student Funding Increase 'A Wash'; Fight Against Turnarounds Continues

The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) district announced Wednesday that it will increase funding for school budgets next year by $70 million. But education experts and activists stopped short of calling it a big boost for schools.

"It's really not an increase. It's less of a decrease," said Eric 'Rico' Gutstein, faculty associate with the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Collaborative for Equity and Justice in Education.

CPS plans to reduce central office spending and use a one-time accounting adjustment so it can allocate the extra $70 million, which will be used to increase its base per-student funding amount by $250.

It looks like a good chunk of the extra per-pupil funds sent to schools would help to offset inflation and contractually-required pay bumps for teachers, CPS spokesman Joel Hood told the Chicago Sun-Times. Next year, the Chicago Teachers Union is owed a 2 percent teacher pay hike, which will reportedly come out to be no less than $50 million.

West Side education activist Dwayne Truss with the Raise Your Hand education coalition called the per-student funding increase "just a wash."

"You're not gaining much from last year other than being able to just hold on to what you already have," he said.  Read more »