Evidence of fraud and abuse revealed in a recent Inspector General Report on Chicago Public Schools, coupled with the inherent unfairness of the current system of state education funding, has prompted a renewed push to prioritize reforms that would treat students fairly across Illinois.
Lawmakers said the report from the Chicago Board of Education’s Office of the Inspector General raises concerns that downstate and suburban school districts are being penalized. That is because scarce education dollars are wasted, while the current allocation system allows Chicago schools to make an end-run around the formulas that all other school districts fall under.
Some of the problems uncovered in the report included cases where “ghost students” were added to inflate a high school’s enrollment numbers and gain funding for added positions, travel expenses were falsified, fraudulent free-lunch and reduced-lunch program applications were submitted, and residency rules were violated.
Bipartisan committee said to end special Chicago grant
For many lawmakers, the report simply underscored the need to adopt a bipartisan recommendation to end the special grant allocations for Chicago schools and bring all schools under a single formula.
The Chicago Public Schools block grant awarded Chicago schools $477 million for the 2012-2013 academic year—nearly double what they would have received if they were reimbursed the same way as other schools across the state. If the same funding formula was used, Chicago schools would have only received $252 million.
Concealed-carry permits in the mail
As nearly 3,000 sports and gun enthusiasts converged on the Capitol March 5 for their annual lobby day, it was with the knowledge that Illinois had finally joined 49 other states in authorizing its citizens to carry concealed handguns in public.
Indeed, more than 5,000 concealed-carry permits had been mailed out by the end of February.
On March 6, the state Capitol hosted hundreds of Future Farmers of America (FFA) members from across Illinois who were in Springfield for the annual Illinois Ag/FFA Legislative Day.
The Senate paused briefly to welcome State FFA president Sam Detwiler of rural Flanagan, along with other members of the FFA who were visiting.
Bills approved, sent to House
The Senate approved and sent to the House several dozen measures during the week ending March 7. A full list can be found on the Senate Action Page of the Senate Republican Web site. Listed below are some of the more notable measures.
Sex Offender Unemployment Reporting (SB 2912): Requires that a registered sex offender who loses his or her employment must report in person to the law enforcement agency with which he or she last registered his or her loss of employment within three days of that loss of employment.
Proof of License Plate Renewal (SB 2802): Allows a printed receipt of an online license plate renewal to be used as proof of renewal until the physical sticker is received in the mail.
Drones (SB 2937): Prohibits a law enforcement agency from using a drone owned by a private third party to acquire information (with certain exceptions). An amendment allows the use of a drone without a search warrant, if law enforcement is using a drone during a disaster or public health emergency (flood, tornado, earthquake, etc.).
Off Highway Vehicle Stamp (SB 2633): Sets a new price of $10 for ATV Usage Stamps for vehicles with engine capacities of 75 cubic centimeters and below. Current law is $15 for all Usage Stamps, and this price would be kept in place for vehicles with an engine capacity exceeding 75ccs.
Extending Probation (SB 3074): Allows a court to extend a defendant's term of probation or conditional discharge that was concurrent to, consecutive to, or otherwise interrupted by a prison term, if needed to provide additional time to complete an order of restitution.
(More details on these and other legislative initiatives)