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6:00 am
Fri April 18, 2014

Employment Improves, But Illinois Still Lags U.S.

The Illinois State Capitol, in a fog.
Credit Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

The latest state job numbers are out and the news for Illinois is mixed. The unemployment rate is down. But fewer people were hired than expected, and Illinois still lags the nation.

Illinois' March unemployment rate is 8.4 percent. That's the best it's been in more than five years, but it's still among the worst rates in the country.

On top of that, officials blame the unseasonably cold weather for the fact that fewer jobs were added in March than in the previous month.

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Education Desk
10:46 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Interview: John Tinker & The Landmark Case On Students' Right To Free Speech

John Tinker
Credit Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Public schools are not allowed to forbid students' right to freedom of speech, unless it disrupts education. But that wasn't necessarily true until a court case from Iowa made its way to the Supreme Court back in the 60s. John Tinker was behind the case, known as Tinker v. Des Moines. He and other students went to school wearing black arm bands to protest the Vietnam War. They were kicked out and told not to come back to class unless they removed the bands and the rest as they say, is history.

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Statehouse
6:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

State Legislation Hints At Marijuana Legalization

Credit en.wikipedia.org

Last year, Illinois approved medical use of marijuana after years of debating the issue.   But could Illinois be closer to following the lead of some other states that have given the o-k to recreational use?   

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Gambling
5:00 am
Thu April 17, 2014

Plan Threatens Proposed Downstate Casinos

In one of the latest gambling proposals, slot machines would be denied to Fairmount Park (though not other horse racetracks) over concerns it would hurt the nearby Casino Queen, in East St. Louis.
Credit Paul Sableman (pasa47) via Flickr

A group of Illinois lawmakers considered two different plans to expand gambling Wednesday. One tracks other recent proposals to add five casinos across Illinois; the other focuses on Chicago.

Every expansion of gambling in Illinois has required a delicate balance of competing geographic and businesses interests.

That's why plans in recent years have called for slot machines at horse racetracks, and five new casinos: in Chicago, the south suburbs, Lake County, Rockford, and Danville.

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Statehouse Bureau
4:44 am
Thu April 17, 2014

How Much Would Your School District Lose?

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  New data suggests just how big a hit most school districts would take if Illinois' income tax rate rolls back as scheduled at the end of the year.

Illinois' budget could play out a lot of different ways. But under one scenario -- the one Gov. Pat Quinn says will be the case if tax rates aren't kept at five percent -- kindergarten through high school classrooms across Illinois will get $450 million dollars less from the state.

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Health Desk
6:07 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Unmet Needs: Living With Mental Illness In Central Illinois

Debra and Zach Medlyn
Credit Sean Powers

According to federal labor statistics, there are more psychiatrists working in Illinois than most states, with the bulk of that service concentrated in the Chicagoland area. But mental health providers say there are major gaps in service across Illinois, especially downstate. 

Zach Medlyn, 27, of Champaign did not start hearing the voices until about seven years ago, when he was a student at the University of Illinois.

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Early childhood education
2:22 pm
Wed April 16, 2014

Study: Pre-K Education Provides For Economic Growth

Credit flickr/LizMarie_AK

  As Illinois navigated the economic downturn, lawmakers made lots of cuts -- including to early childhood education.

Advocates say over the years, that cut off 25,000 kids from access to preschool.

Business leaders say it's time to restore the funding, in the name of economic efficacy later on.

A new report from Cornell University claims that for every dollar invested in early childhood programs, the local economy recoups $1.94.

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Politics
9:46 am
Wed April 16, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Announce Campaign Donations

Credit flickr/dborman

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican gubernatorial challenger Bruce Rauner have filed their latest campaign reports with the state.  

Rauner on Tuesday announced he raised more than $9 million in the first three months of the year.  
Quinn says he raised $5 million in the first quarter, much of it from labor unions. He spent little of it defeat a little-known challenger in last month's Democratic primary.  Quinn finished the quarter with $8.8 million in his campaign fund.  

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Statehouse
9:04 am
Wed April 16, 2014

The Vanishing Millionaire Tax

Brian Gaines
Credit IGPA

House Speaker Michael Madigan pulled his plan for a so-called "millionaire tax" last week.   The plan would have raised taxes on those earning $1 million or more a year, with the proceeds going to schools.  It would have required a constitutional change. 

Professor Brian Gaines has studied the idea.  He's with the Institute of Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois.  He called Madigan's change of heart a bit surprising:

Brian Gaines' essay on the "millionaire tax" -

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Regional
11:22 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

City Approves More Video Gaming Despite Upcoming Ordinance

Despite concerns over gambling parlors cutting into the bottom line of local bars and restaurants, the Springfield City Council last night approved zoning changes to allow more of the establishments to open shop.  Aldermen Cory Jobe voted in favor, even though he's pushing an ordinance to require video gambling only at places that earn 60 percent or more of revenue from food and beverage sales. 

Jobe says the city is skirting the spirit of the law.  But he says there’s no conflict in his vote.

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Statehouse
4:37 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Rutherford: Dismiss Sexual Harassment Lawsuit

Lawyers for Illinois Treasurer Dan Rutherford are asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by an ex-employee alleging sexual harassment and forced political work on state time.  

The motion in U.S. District Court in Chicago seeks to end the lawsuit by Edmund Michalowski.
Michalowski worked for the former Republican candidate for governor for three years before leaving in January and filing the lawsuit.  

The document contends Michalowski's claims that he was disciplined for not doing campaign work on state time are not plausible.  

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Federal Spending
1:43 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Durbin Calls For A Return of 'Earmarks'

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin speaks with reporters in this file photo.
Credit Hannah Meisel/WUIS

It's been a few years since Congressional "earmarks" were eliminated from federal transportation spending. U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin says it's time to bring them back.

Earmarks have a bad name — remember the "bridge to nowhere," a plan to spend nearly $400 million on a bridge to an island in Alaska with 50 residents?

Durbin says earmarks should have been reformed, not eliminated. He says legislators are in touch with the transportation needs of their districts and states.

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Gas tax
10:49 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Gas Station Owners Warn Against Fuel Tax Increase

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A coalition of Illinois gas station owners say they're wary of a plan to increase motor fuel taxes. Opponents say it would cause too much pain at the pump.

Engineers, the state Chamber of Commerce, and local mass transit agencies have a strategy to shore up the state's deteriorating highway network and other infrastructure needs: a strategy that includes raising Illinois' tax on gas, which hasn't seen an increase in 24 years.

For now, it's just a plan; no state lawmaker has committed to supporting that proposal.

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Statehouse
8:08 am
Tue April 15, 2014

Quinn, Rauner At IEA Conference - Full Audio

Credit WUIS

Republican Bruce Rauner and Democratic Governor Pat Quinn made their first joint appearance of the campaign when they took the stage Friday at an Illinois Education Association meeting in Chicago. More than 1,000 people were in attendance. 

The two answered questions and also took political jabs at one another. IEA President Cinda Klickna moderated the question and answer session.  

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Regional
4:11 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Steely Dan To Play State Fair Grandstand

Steely Dan's Donald Fagen (left) and Walter Becker
Credit Steely Dan.com

Grammy Award-winning rock band Steely Dan will play this year's Illinois State Fair.  

State officials made the announcement on Monday afternoon. They say the band will play its ``Jamalot Ever After'' tour at the fair on Aug. 15. Steely Dan had a string of hits during the 1970's. They won a Grammy in 2000 for Album of the Year.  

Tickets will go on sale for the show May 3.

The fair runs from Aug. 7 to 17 in Springfield. Other acts this year include country singers Jake Owen and Hunter Hayes, Florida Georgia Line and Boston. 

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Campaign Finance
6:00 am
Mon April 14, 2014

Illinois Senate Joins Push For U.S. Constitutional Convention

America has had only one national constitutional convention — so far.
Credit Howard Chandler Christy via Wikimedia Commons

The Illinois Senate has joined a push for a national constitutional convention. Organizers want to change the way political campaigns are financed.

The last time there was a Constitutional Convention, it was presided over by George Washington.

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Health Desk
5:40 am
Mon April 14, 2014

"Making Sense Of Obamacare" Lecture At UIS

Prof. Ted Marmor
Credit Brandeis.edu

Ted Marmor has studied the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.  The author and Professor Emeritus at Yale sees both good and bad with the new law.

"My overall view is simple. That it's a very confusing piece of legislation, not very well explained," he said.

"It perpetuates the cost and complexity of American medical care. But it makes some improvement in the availability of health insurance and the protection of some Americans from being devastated by expensive hospital stays and expensive pharmaceutical treatment."

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WUIS Engage Breakfast
12:48 pm
Sun April 13, 2014

The Impact of Education on the Local Economy

Chris Farrell, Marketplace
Credit APM

Join WUIS in an important community conversation at the first 

A WUIS ENGAGE BREAKFAST
May 2, 2014, 8-9:30 a.m.
Hoogland Center for the Arts - Theatre III
TICKETS $25* BUY NOW!

Special guest, Chris Farrell, is coming to Springfield to share his thoughts and take your questions about education and our local economy.   

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Fundraising
11:16 am
Sun April 13, 2014

The Return of the Mug

Dan LoGrasso
Dan LoGrasso WUIS

The spring 2014 drive marks the return of the mug!  Increase your Calendar Club monthly commitment by $5+ or start one or make a $60+ single gift and you'll be sent the new mug.

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Election 2014
4:16 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Quinn, Rauner Make First Joint Appearance

Credit WUIS

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner have attacked one another for their record and positions on education.   Quinn and Rauner met for the first time Friday in the 2014 campaign for
Illinois governor. They discussing education policy before members of the
Illinois Education Association in Chicago.
 
Quinn is a Chicago Democrat seeking his second full term as governor. He says
Rauner is ``the biggest threat to public education in the state of Illinois.''
 
Rauner supports non-union charter schools, vouchers and moving public employees

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Religion
4:13 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Church Agrees To Find Successor For Chicago Cardinal George

Cardinal George
Credit Chicago Archdiocese

Chicago's archbishop says the Roman Catholic Church has told him it will begin searching for his successor because of his ``uncertain'' health as
he undergoes chemotherapy.
 
 Cardinal Francis George spoke Friday about upcoming canonizations of two popes
and his health, almost a month after being hospitalized for flu-like symptoms and dehydration.
 
He says lengthy, formal process has not begun, but will start soon.
 
The 77-year-old spiritual leader of Chicago's more than 2 million Catholics said he'd like to meet his successor.
 

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State Week
2:47 pm
Fri April 11, 2014

Listen To State Week - April 11, 2014

Credit Dan LoGrasso / WUIS

This week, a discussion of a pair of constitutional amendments on the ballot this fall, the city of Chicago gets a pension overhaul, and Gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner deals with an unwelcome endorsement.

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School funding
11:33 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Manar's School Funding Change Moving Forward

Credit Amanda Vinicky

  A proposal to overhaul the way Illinois schools get state funding is advancing in the state Senate. But Republicans are worried that under a new formula, Chicago schools will get an even bigger share of the money than they do now.

Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has made it his mission to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. The freshman senator says it's long overdue; there's been no change in 17 years.

He's pushing a plan that'd weight poverty, so schools with more poor students get more state money, and wealthier schools get less.

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Education Desk
6:57 am
Fri April 11, 2014

Charter Schools: What Does The Future Hold?

Teacher Mr. Gilbert at Roberston Charter School in Decatur
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Charter schools have long been a divisive issue. Supporters say they allow schools to teach kids free of burdensome regulations.  Opponents say they take money away from traditional schools.  In Illinois this year, those views are colliding.  In the final installment of our series, we find out about the fight at the statehouse and what it might mean for charters:

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Higher Education
3:34 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

UIC Faculty Authorizes Second Strike

Main administration building at UIC
Credit flickr/DanielXONeil

The faculty union at the University of Illinois-Chicago says its members have voted to go ahead with a second strike if negotiations with the university fail to yield an agreement.

The University of Illinois at Chicago United Faculty said in a news release that its members voted Wednesday night to authorize a strike on April 23. The union staged a two-day strike in February.  

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Charter schools
3:08 pm
Thu April 10, 2014

Chapa LaVia's Perceived Slight Overshadows Charter Debate

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora)
Credit Courtesy of ILGA.gov

  An Illinois lawmaker is apologizing for a racially charged remark she made Wednesday during a debate on charter schools. 

Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia (D-Aurora) was closing a long debate over charter schools. But just as she argued minority students sometimes get blocked from charters, she seemed to get frustrated with the noise in the chamber, and turned to address her fellow Democrats.

"There's starting to be a segregation of children between the haves and the have nots — listen to me, minorities! I'm over here because we're all over on this side, right?"

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Harvest Desk
10:00 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Vertical Farming: Lofty Vision, Uncertain Future

Flourescent or LED lamps provide the spectrum of light to sustain plant growth in vertical farms.
Peter Gray/WUIS

Farmers are making inroads supplying local food to hungry city "foodies", but many producers are trying to grow more food in urban centers. City real estate is at a premium, so some producers are finding more space by using what’s called “vertical farming,” and going up rather than spreading out.

Growers across the country are heading indoors, using greenhouses and hydroponics – growing plants in a water and nutrient solution instead of soil and using lamps to replace sunlight. Vertical farming takes that to a new level.

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Charter Schools
8:55 am
Thu April 10, 2014

Charter Schools: The Fix Ailing Districts Need?

Students at Ball Charter
Rachel Otwell/WUIS

Nearly two decades ago when the state legislature paved the way for charter schools, Republicans were in control and touted them as an innovative way to improve education by removing many rules and regulations. Now there are about 145 charter school campuses across the state, the vast majority in Chicago. Supporters say they are the change an ailing education system needs, but it's a contentious topic. In this report, the first of a two-part series, we visit a charter school and explore the differing opinions about them:

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Election 2014
5:48 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

The Stain Of Corruption: Candidate Endorsements

William Cellini
Credit WBEZ

  Gov. Pat Quinn's campaign is blasting his Republican opponent, Bruce Rauner for getting endorsed by Springfield insider William Cellini. But Quinn has his own checkered endorsement history.

Cellini, a lifelong Republican, went to prison for his role in a campaign contribution shakedown scheme tied to the administration of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The Quinn campaign is criticizing Rauner for not doing enough to denounce Cellini, but when reporters asked him about it in the Capitol, Quinn said: "Well I don't want to get into politics here."

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Harvest Desk
4:44 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Illinois Farmer: Drones Teach You A Lot In A Hurry

Matt Boucher of Dwight, Ill. flies his unmanned aerial system from the back of his pickup.
Boucher Farms

Fourth-generation family farmer Matt Boucher took his first unmanned aerial vehicle (what we might commonly refer to as a “drone”) out of its box last Christmas.

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