Our View: SB1 is best bet to reform the way Illinois pays for education

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Students at Kennedy Middle School are the lowest-achieving students in Rockford Public Schools, based on the results of standardized tests, and are in the bottom 5 percent in the state of Illinois.

Yet things are turning around at Kennedy because, thanks to a state grant, the school district has been able to invest in technology, teacher training and other resources. Students in all three grade levels at Kennedy scored in the 99th percentile in the country for reading growth, according to student academic progress scores.

It’s schools like Kennedy that can benefit most from the school financing reform proposal known as Senate Bill 1, which has passed both chambers in the Illinois General Assembly and is on its way to the desk of Gov. Bruce Rauner.

SB1 uses an evidence-based model to tackle financing for schools, something at which the state of Illinois has been woefully inept. Illinois ranks last in state funding for public education despite the constitutional requirement that “the state has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education.”

The evidence-based approach relies on research and best practices. It determines what educational practices will lead to student success and how much it would cost to adopt those practices. Then comes the task of divvying up money among Illinois’ 852 public school districts.

No school district would get less money than it is getting today. SB1 doles out whatever new dollars become available for education.

Money cannot fix all educational challenges, but it does matter.

Research shows low-income students such as those at Kennedy (78 percent are considered low income) benefit most from additional dollars so the formula in SB1 favors those students. Rockford, with 58 percent low-income students districtwide, would receive an extra $5.1 million if the governor signs SB1.

Don’t bet on it.

Although the governor likes most of what’s in SB1, there’s a portion that he dislikes so much that he may veto the bill altogether or use his amendatory veto power to change the bill.

Rauner objects to what he and other opponents of SB1 consider a “bailout” for Chicago schools. Again, SB1 ensures no school district gets less money so grant money Chicago schools have been getting has been rolled into the funding formula.

Then there’s the issue of pensions. Chicago Public Schools is the only school district in the state that has to cover its own teacher pension payments. SB1 includes additional money for those pensions. Without the pension money, Chicago schools would get less than they receive under the current formula.

Although we question the pension portion for Chicago, it’s not enough of a concern to diminish our support for the bill. Also, we’re a bit tired of Chicago, a world-class city that still attracts corporate headquarters, being cast as an evil entity. We want Chicago schoolchildren to succeed as much as we want students in other areas of the state to succeed and we think a new funding formula can help make that happen.

SB1 is the best shot Illinois has at reworking a financing system that has created huge disparities among school districts and does not help educate children. It’s a bill that has been revised several times since Sen. Andy Manar first proposed it a few years ago.

A study by The Education Trust in 2015 showed that Illinois school districts with the greatest number of students living in poverty received nearly 20 percent less state and local money than affluent districts. Your ZIP code should not determine the quality of education your child receives.

SB1 would give state money to the students and schools who need it most. That’s how schools should be funded.

Illinois lawmakers have talked about changing the school financing formula for decades. If SB1 does not become law, how much longer will Illinoisans have to wait for a more equitable solution to the way Illinois pays for education?

Ideally, the governor will sign the bill as is so that students all across the state can have access to the type of resources that have helped Kennedy Middle School improve.

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Our View: SB1 is best bet to reform the way Illinois pays for education

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

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Ryan Croke, 33, a former chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn who has been associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield since mid-2015, starts Aug. 16 as executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

“For many years, I’ve wanted to do more to support independence, respect and dignity for people with disabilities, and this allows me to do just that,” Croke said.

Croke’s parents were both deaf from birth, and Croke has said that when he was brought up in Wheeling, American Sign Language was his first language.

Croke is taking over for the networks’ founding director, Ann Ford, who retired in March.

Croke is on the board of the Springfield Center for Independent Living – one of 22 such centers that are part of the network that advocates for integration and inclusion of people with disabilities in Illinois.

“It will take a relentless effort to confront and overcome today’s obstacles to decent healthcare, housing, education and employment (for people with disabilities), but our association has the right tools to help lead the charge, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Croke said in a statement.

He said he’s been splitting time between the university and the network this summer. His full-time pay at the university was $85,000 annually, and he was getting half that rate in recent months. He said he has “deep respect” for people he worked with at the university and plans to continue working with folks there on accessibility and inclusion issues.

He said he and his wife, Brook, have always felt at home in Springfield, where they are now raising two young sons. They moved to the city in 2006 when Croke went to work for then-Lt. Gov. Quinn after he got a master’s in communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Croke’s mother died in 2008. His father now lives independently in Springfield.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, http://twitter.com/bschoenburg.

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

State cuts 2017 funds for voter registration integrity

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Local election authorities will lose more than $4.4 million in grant funds this year that pay for, among other things, purging ineligible names from voter registration rolls.

But officials say they are used to the roller coaster nature of election funding.

Amy Kelly, the assistant to the executive director of the Illinois State Board of Elections, notified county clerks of the bad news at the beginning of July. Six election bodies applied for at least $100,000 from what’s known as the IVRS Lump Sum Grant. In addition to voter registration integrity, the grant helps fund voter registration equipment and corresponding software licensing fees.

The grant typically functions as a reimbursement for money already spent for such efforts. The money for 2017 became one of the many funding casualties in the state budget debate.

The Cook County clerk’s office applied for $1.43 million, but spokesman Nick Shields said officials have learned not to count on the money. The office builds any of the grant cash that does come through into the office’s operating budget.

“We would have had the opportunity to hire additional staff, invest in additional training and modernize some of our Election Day infrastructure,” Shields said of plans for the funds. “One of the projects in the hopper was developing, potentially internally, an all-encompassing Election Day dashboard to help us increase responsiveness at polling sites if a complication arises.”

The project will sit on the back burner for a while longer because of the vanishing funds. But not everyone has given up on getting the money yet.

Kane County Clerk Jack Cunningham’s office was eligible for nearly $101,000 in reimbursement from the grant for 2017. He and other officials are pinching pennies to help solve a $2.8 million midyear budget shortfall.

Kane County Board members have already reduced that deficit to less than $700,000, but officials, like Cunningham, are being asked to find either more cuts or more revenue.

Cunningham described the lost funding as an “omission error” on the part of the state. He’ll continue to lobby for the funds, but the county does not have a strong history of receiving support from the grant. Financial records show the state hasn’t funded any of the costs Kane County is eligible to receive reimbursement through the grant since 2012. As a result, the county stopped budgeting for the funds in 2014.

Joe Onzick, Kane County’s chief financial officer, said he and other officials trying to close the budget gap would love it if the money came through.

“To the extent that we lost potential additional revenue is, of course, never good news,” Onzick said. “It is that much less that we might have received to offset the revenue shortfalls in other areas.”

Kane County has an even larger budget deficit heading into 2018. And there may be some good news on that front regarding the IVRS Lump Sum Grant.

Kelly said the state’s new budget includes $3.9 million for the grant. But that total may shrink if the state board of elections needs any of the money for its own operational needs.

McHenry County Clerk Mary McClellan did not respond to an interview request. Her office was eligible for $229,000 in grant funds, one of the larger amounts compared to the size of the county.

State cuts 2017 funds for voter registration integrity

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

http://ift.tt/2tSK1Y9

Ryan Croke, 33, a former chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn who has been associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield since mid-2015, starts Aug. 16 as executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

“For many years, I’ve wanted to do more to support independence, respect and dignity for people with disabilities, and this allows me to do just that,” Croke said.

Croke’s parents were both deaf from birth, and Croke has said that when he was brought up in Wheeling, American Sign Language was his first language.

Croke is taking over for the networks’ founding director, Ann Ford, who retired in March.

Croke is on the board of the Springfield Center for Independent Living – one of 22 such centers that are part of the network that advocates for integration and inclusion of people with disabilities in Illinois.

“It will take a relentless effort to confront and overcome today’s obstacles to decent healthcare, housing, education and employment (for people with disabilities), but our association has the right tools to help lead the charge, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Croke said in a statement.

He said he’s been splitting time between the university and the network this summer. His full-time pay at the university was $85,000 annually, and he was getting half that rate in recent months. He said he has “deep respect” for people he worked with at the university and plans to continue working with folks there on accessibility and inclusion issues.

He said he and his wife, Brook, have always felt at home in Springfield, where they are now raising two young sons. They moved to the city in 2006 when Croke went to work for then-Lt. Gov. Quinn after he got a master’s in communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Croke’s mother died in 2008. His father now lives independently in Springfield.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, http://twitter.com/bschoenburg.

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

http://ift.tt/2tSK1Y9

Ryan Croke, 33, a former chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn who has been associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield since mid-2015, starts Aug. 16 as executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

“For many years, I’ve wanted to do more to support independence, respect and dignity for people with disabilities, and this allows me to do just that,” Croke said.

Croke’s parents were both deaf from birth, and Croke has said that when he was brought up in Wheeling, American Sign Language was his first language.

Croke is taking over for the networks’ founding director, Ann Ford, who retired in March.

Croke is on the board of the Springfield Center for Independent Living – one of 22 such centers that are part of the network that advocates for integration and inclusion of people with disabilities in Illinois.

“It will take a relentless effort to confront and overcome today’s obstacles to decent healthcare, housing, education and employment (for people with disabilities), but our association has the right tools to help lead the charge, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Croke said in a statement.

He said he’s been splitting time between the university and the network this summer. His full-time pay at the university was $85,000 annually, and he was getting half that rate in recent months. He said he has “deep respect” for people he worked with at the university and plans to continue working with folks there on accessibility and inclusion issues.

He said he and his wife, Brook, have always felt at home in Springfield, where they are now raising two young sons. They moved to the city in 2006 when Croke went to work for then-Lt. Gov. Quinn after he got a master’s in communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Croke’s mother died in 2008. His father now lives independently in Springfield.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, http://twitter.com/bschoenburg.

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

http://ift.tt/2tSK1Y9

Ryan Croke, 33, a former chief of staff to Gov. Pat Quinn who has been associate chancellor for public affairs at the University of Illinois Springfield since mid-2015, starts Aug. 16 as executive director of the Illinois Network of Centers for Independent Living.

“For many years, I’ve wanted to do more to support independence, respect and dignity for people with disabilities, and this allows me to do just that,” Croke said.

Croke’s parents were both deaf from birth, and Croke has said that when he was brought up in Wheeling, American Sign Language was his first language.

Croke is taking over for the networks’ founding director, Ann Ford, who retired in March.

Croke is on the board of the Springfield Center for Independent Living – one of 22 such centers that are part of the network that advocates for integration and inclusion of people with disabilities in Illinois.

“It will take a relentless effort to confront and overcome today’s obstacles to decent healthcare, housing, education and employment (for people with disabilities), but our association has the right tools to help lead the charge, and I’m honored to be a part of it,” Croke said in a statement.

He said he’s been splitting time between the university and the network this summer. His full-time pay at the university was $85,000 annually, and he was getting half that rate in recent months. He said he has “deep respect” for people he worked with at the university and plans to continue working with folks there on accessibility and inclusion issues.

He said he and his wife, Brook, have always felt at home in Springfield, where they are now raising two young sons. They moved to the city in 2006 when Croke went to work for then-Lt. Gov. Quinn after he got a master’s in communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana.

Croke’s mother died in 2008. His father now lives independently in Springfield.

— Contact Bernard Schoenburg: bernard.schoenburg@sj-r.com, 788-1540, http://twitter.com/bschoenburg.

Former Quinn chief of staff Ryan Croke to head independent living organization

KAPOS: Can working for Obama be topped?

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Valerie Jarrett has joined the board of Lyft, the ride-sharing company.

“For months, we’ve been looking to add new skills sets, experience, and perspective to our board. And we couldn’t have found a better partner than Valerie, an incredibly influential and respected businesswoman and civic leader,” the company said Monday in a blog post announcing Jarrett’s appointment.

Jarrett also has secured potentially lucrative positions as author, speaker and board member with Ariel Investments.

She’s among the many members of former President Barack Obama’s administration to land prestigious positions with corporate boards, law firms and nonprofits since leaving D.C.

Former Obama aides say the greatest challenge in their job searches has been finding work that compares with their roles in Washington.

Michael Strautmanis

Michael Strautmanis | Sun-Times file photo

“What could you do that’s as awesome as working for your friend at the White House in a position of influence?” acknowledged Michael Strautmanis, who held a few jobs with Obama, including counselor for strategic engagement. “It created an opportunity for me to step back and ask, ‘What do I want to do in the world, and what do I want to learn? What do I want to accomplish?’”

For Strautmanis, the answer was right in front of him. He was hired as vice president of the Obama Foundation.

He and Jarrett join an elite group of former Obama aides who now wheel and deal influence in Chicago. Others include Mayor Rahm Emanuel, financier Bill Daley and the University of Chicago’s David Axelrod and Susan Sher.

Robert Rivkin, a former general counsel in the U.S. Department of Transportation, was recently named deputy to Emanuel.

Tina Tchen, who worked for first lady Michelle Obama, is organizing women’s summits across the country. Like Jarrett, she’s splitting her time between Chicago and D.C.

Arne Duncan

Arne Duncan | Sun-Times file photo

Arne Duncan leads Chicago CRED, a job-training and anti-violence organization, and Penny Pritzker runs her investment business. They were both Cabinet members.

Mike Cassel was with the Export-Import Bank; now he’s director of global corporate citizenship for Boeing Co.

John Oxtoby was with the Council on Jobs and Competitiveness; now he is vice president of strategy and corporate development at Ariel Investments.

Peter Cunningham and Charlie Rose worked in the Department of Education. Cunningham is now executive director of the nonprofit Education Post, and Rose is a partner at Hogan Marren Babbo & Rose.

Kelly Welsh was general counsel in Commerce; now he is president of the Commercial Club of Chicago and its Civic Committee.

Cindy Moelis was president of the Commission on White House Fellowships; now she’s president of the Pritzker Traubert Family Foundation.

Dan Lurie worked for the vice president and now is director of think tank New America’s Chicago office.

Lauren Kidwell was with Commerce and now is a partner at the consulting group 270 Strategies.

Drama in Mark Walter’s shop

Is there a power struggle brewing at billionaire Mark Walter‘s Guggenheim Partners?

Mark Walter

Mark Walter | Provided photo

Employees at the Chicago-based financial firm are lining up behind Walter on one side or chief investment officer Scott Minerd on the other as the company has undergone some changes during the past year, the Financial Times reports.

Walter and Minerd deny any rift. In an email through a spokesman, Walter said, “There is no power struggle between Scott and me. We have been friends and worked together for more than two decades. We share a common goal: to make Guggenheim great and to deliver stellar performance to clients.”

The reported drama centers on Alexandra Court, “an ally of Mr. Walter’s,” who was promoted last year to global head of institutional distribution. She fired 22 employees and changed how employees handle requests from clients, apparently barring any communication unless approved by Court’s sales team.

Court’s moves changed the culture of the company, according to the Financial Times report based on interviews with current and former employees.

Walter is an important figure on Chicago’s philanthropic scene. Sports folks know him as the main owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

An evening with George Takei

George Takei

George Takei | AP file photo

The former “Star Trek” actor and activist George Takei is coming to Chicago to share his family’s story of immigration.

The event Sept. 7 is part of Alphawood Gallery’s exhibition: “Then They Came for Me.”

Alphawood was founded by media entrepreneur and political donor Fred Eychaner.

Read more Taking Names at shiakapos.com.

KAPOS: Can working for Obama be topped?