DNA evidence remains a powerful tool to convict, but also to exonerate.

At East Alton-Wood River High School, as well in schools across the state, the measurement of academic improvement is based on a single test given over two days once a year. “It’s silly to measure a school’s performance by that,” says the Superintendent.
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The makeup of Illinois schools is changing. If you moved every desk, from every Illinois school, into one giant classroom, more than half of the kids in those seats would be students of color.

That's on par with national figures; last year the U.S. Department of Education signaled that minorities would outnumber whites at the nation's public schools.

Good news on the state budget: It seems the governor will finally meet with all four legislative leaders to discuss their differences. Bad news on the state budget: Gov. Bruce Rauner says he doesn't expect much to come of it. And yet: "I wouldn't give up hope so soon," House Speaker Michael Madigan said of the governor's remarks.

Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

Judicial races are getting increasingly politicized, according to a study published Thursday surveying 2013-2014 state Supreme Court races called "Bankrolling the Bench."

Abby Wendle/Harvest Public Media

Erik Terstriep, perched in the captain’s chair of his combine, glides through eight rows of corn at a time.

Voices For Illinois Children, National Women's Law Center

Illinois fares poorly in a recent national report looking at access to child care assistance. In fact, the state ranks dead last after after cuts were made in July to drastically reduce maximum income levels for families to qualify. The report, by the Washington, D.C.-based National Women’s Policy Center, compared policies between the states as well as the District of Columbia.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Schools that serve a large number of low-income children qualify for federal grants, called Title 1. Many schools use that money to provide extra reading and math teachers, to help needy kids catch up with their more privileged peers. But the state of Illinois is increasingly tapping into those funds to pay down the Teachers Retirement System’s pension liability. 

The school system losing the most money in this scheme is Springfield’s District 186. So I asked Larry McVey, coordinator of Springfield’s Title 1 programs, to explain how this happened.

Claudia Quigg headshot / WUIS / Illinois Issues

We parents love our children with equal commitment, but it may not look the same.

Every parent of siblings has been assailed by the “It’s not fair!” claim at least once. This complaint from an angry child may follow watching a sibling get more attention, more freedom, less punishment, or a pony.  This accusation represents an attempt to cause parents guilt based on the pretext that life should be fair and each child should receive exactly the same responses from parents.

Maybe in a parallel universe, but not in this world.

From The Scene: Happy Halloween, 2015

Oct 29, 2015

Halloween is this Saturday, and as such there is a plethora of events in the area to help you celebrate. The Scene is here to tell you about the stand-outs:

Image Credt:

The constitutional requirement for a balanced budget is not as strict as you might think.

Days after an Illinois high school student died from football injuries, a Cook County judge has dismissed a lawsuit alleging the sports' governing body didn't do enough to protect athletes.

Bruce Rauner

Did the voters know what they were getting?

Dr. Jerry Kruse has been affiliated with the SIU School of Medicine for over 30 years.  Most recently he has served as executive associate dean and CEO of SIU Healthcare. 

In January, he'll tackle a new role.  He'll become the dean and provost for the school.

Amanda Vinicky WUIS

A former state lawmaker from western Illinois wants back in the general assembly. 

Jil Tracy launched her campaign for state Senate in a Quincy park Monday.  She lives in the town and represented the area in the Illinois House for about a decade. 

Illinois has hit a cash flow problem and will not be ably to make its monthly pension payment in November and possibly December. The state's inability to cover its expenses has some asking the question: will Illinois run out of money?

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In recent years, there has been a push at the statehouse to revive and ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. It'd be a symbolic gesture, since the measure failed in the 1970s, and never did get enough support from states to pass federally. It was meant to include in the Constitution that women shall be afforded the same rights as men and not discriminated against due to gender.

Krispy Kreme

Bill and Tim show they are good journalists by talking about Doughnuts, microbrew and meat.

Known for their calm temperaments and soft fleece, alpacas were at one time the next hot thing to backyard farmers. A decade ago, the market was frenetic, with some top of the line animals selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the bubble burst, leaving thousands of alpaca breeders with near-worthless herds. Today, craigslist posts across the country advertise “herd liquidations” and going-out-of-business deals on alpacas, some selling for as little as a dollar.

Education Group Says It Has Budget Impasse Antidote

Oct 27, 2015
(flickr/Daniel X. O'Neil)

There’s no end in sight to the political gridlock in Springfield.

But one group says it has an education plan it’s convinced both Republicans and Democrats could support.

That plan is a new twist on an old idea: corporations paying money into a special fund.

They’d get tax breaks. And parents would get cash to use for the school of their choice.

SEIU Healthcare Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner recently reached an agreement with a trio of unions -- representing some 300 plumbers, machinists and engineers and operators. But he's still at odds with unions representing the bulk of state employees: the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, and the Service Employees International Union.

SEIU represents home care workers -- people who help the disabled and elderly care for themselves. Denise Gaines, legislative director of SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana, says now, these workers get paid to take important training.

Wikimedia Commons / User: Husky

Learning standards for the arts are changing in the state. It's been about two decades since the guidelines have been updated. Teachers and administrators around Illinois have been meeting regularly since new federal arts standards were released last year. Those guidelines separate the arts into five categories: music, theater, dance, visual art and media arts.

Rachel Otwell/WUIS

In northern Illinois, a new space is open for kids to complete a variety of unique creative projects. I took a visit, here’s the report:

Brass rail outside the Governor's office
Amanda Vinicky / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Mark your calendars. A date has been set. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has called a meeting with the legislature's leaders to talk about the budget impasse for Nov. 18.

The Young Philanthropists in Sangamon County has hit the decade mark.  

Illinois still has no budget plan and no progress on an agreement is in sight.  The state is spending far more than it's taking in, higher education and social services have largely been left out to dry, and Illinois' credit rating continues to be downgraded.  Meanwhile, Governor Rauner is beginning to face criticism from within his own party.  Kurt Erickson of Lee Enterprises joins the panel discussion this week.

Claudia Quigg headshot / WUIS / Illinois Issues

Five-year old Thomas learned to ride a bike over the past few weeks. Watching him initially stagger and fall was painful for me, and the resulting bruises and abrasions were painful for him. 

Alas, there are no shortcuts to learning—a truth my own skinned knees have taught me well. Instead, there are predictable stages of learning for every new skill we seek to attain.

Psychologists describe the four stages of competence, or the "conscious competence" learning model involved as we progress from incompetence to competence in any skill.


Illinois has twice seen its credit rating take a hit this week.

Get Spooky With The Scene

Oct 22, 2015

On the week's episode of The Scene, Rachel and Scott talk about Halloween festivities, preview a multi-sensory art show, and talk about a local museum most area-residents haven't heard of. Take a listen:

Events discussed this week include:

Hannah Meisel/WUIS

 On the state's 113th day without a budget, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner Thursday sloughed off critical comments made by his a pair of his predecessors.

Former Gov. Jim Edgar's still a popular figure within the Illinois GOP, which is why the harsh nature of his recent remarks garnered a lot of attention. Edgar scolded Rauner for putting his pro-business agenda ahead of the budget.

Then another Republican Governor from the past - James Thompson -- also said that Illinois' is in the worst position it's ever been.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / WUIS

News Analysis — On September 18, 2012, the year before Bruce Rauner declared his candidacy for governor, he shared his vision for a crisis that could help reshape state government.