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Rauner names first set in a series of gubernatorial appointments | WRXX-FM (95.3) & WILY (1210/98.7) – Centralia’s Radio Legends

10 Jan

SPRINGFIELD — Governor-elect Bruce Rauner announced today the first in a series of cabinet secretary, agency director and boards and commissions appointments.

Today’s appointments cover the Department of Transportation, State Board of Education, Illinois Department of Employment Security, Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority, University of Illinois Board of Trustees and the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.

Name: Randy Blankenhorn

Position: Secretary – Illinois Department of Transportation

Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner has nominated 56-year-old Randy Blankenhorn, of Chicago, as the Director of the Illinois Department of Transportation. Blankenhorn is currently the Executive Director of the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP). This is a return to IDOT to for Blankenhorn; he worked for the agency for 22 years, most recently as the Bureau Chief of Urban Program Planning.

Blankenhorn has been the head of CMAP since its inception by the General Assembly in 2006. CMAP oversees transportation, land use, housing economic development, environment and other quality of life issues in the seven counties that makeup Chicagoland. Blankenhorn has also overseen the implementation of GO TO 2040, which is the first regional plan for the Chicago metropolitan area in more than 100 years.

While at IDOT, Blankenhorn worked in a number of positions in both the policy and planning divisions, eventually rising to the Bureau Chief of Urban Program Planning. He was also the point person on a number of major infrastructure projects in Illinois, including the extension of I-355 and IL 53; the new Mississippi River crossing in St. Louis; and the South Suburban Airport.

Blankenhorn also worked for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Personnel. He is a graduate of Illinois State University, with a bachelor’s degree in business administration.


Name: James Meeks

Position: Chairman – State Board of Education

Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner has nominated 59-year-old former State Senator James Meeks, of Chicago, to Chairman of the Illinois State Board of Education. Meeks’ commitment to education is evidenced by his work in the General Assembly, and as the Pastor of Salem Baptist Church in Chicago.

While a member of the Senate, Meeks was a strong voice in education, serving as the Chairman of the Senate’s Education Committee. He worked hard to increase school funding and improve the quality of education for all students.

Meeks is currently the Pastor of Salem Baptist Church, which is one of the fastest growing African-American churches in the United States; it currently has more than 15,000 members. He received his bachelor’s degree in Religion & Philosophy from Bishop College in Dallas, Tex.


Name: Jeff Mays

Position: Director – Illinois Department of Employment Security

Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner will appoint 62-year-old former State Representative Jeff Mays (R-96th District), of Quincy, as the Director of the Department of Employment Security. Mays is currently the President of the Illinois Business Roundtable, which is an association of corporate business leaders and makes recommendations on policy issues facing Illinois.

For more than 15 years, Mays has advocated for education and workforce development, while representing the interests of chief business executives in Illinois. He has created programs to help students of all ages learn skills they will need in the workforce. In addition, he has worked on programs that pipeline talented employees to Illinois.

Mays served five terms in the Illinois General Assembly from 1981 to 1990, representing large portions of Springfield, Decatur and surrounding communities. He was the Chief Sponsor on all Executive Agency Appropriations, and led House Republicans on all budget related committees. He was also the Co-Chair of the Legislative Audit Commission. Mays also served on the following House Committees: Labor and Commerce, Executive, Financial Institutions and Select Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

In between his time in the General Assembly and at the IBR, he worked for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as a Special Assistant to the Regional Administrator. He also spent five years at the Illinois State Chamber of Commerce as the Vice President of Human Resources, and as the Executive Vice President.

Hays holds bachelor’s degrees from Northwestern University in history and economics. He currently serves as the Vice President on the Quincy Public School Board. More…

via Rauner names first set in a series of gubernatorial appointments | WRXX-FM (95.3) & WILY (1210/98.7) – Centralia’s Radio Legends.


The Ryan Budget: A roadmap to ruin for schools, students and families « Education Votes

5 Apr

The way retired teacher Marilyn Taylor-Gerken sees it, Washington needs to take immediate action to fix America’s infrastructure—not just bridges and roads and public transportation, but the infrastructure of a public education system that provides a quality education for all.

“Public education is the best road to reducing poverty in our country, and we’re all allowing it to crumble,” said the teacher of 37 years, who taught special education in Ohio for 25 years. “It will continue as long as the rich and powerful are allowed to evade their responsibilities to our society.”

“You cannot expect the middle class, which is dwindling by the minute, to make up for the fact that the upper end of the spectrum isn’t asked to pay its fair share in taxes, and meanwhile leave people on the lowest-income end of the spectrum to fend for themselves.”

But that’s exactly what Rep. Paul Ryan expects, judging by the budget resolution he released yesterday.

Ryan’s budget would give deep tax breaks to those who need them the least—the nation’s wealthiest citizens and corporations—while cutting the portion of the budget that funds all federal education programs by $800 billion over the next decade.

Instead of replacing the across-the-board cuts known as the sequester, the Ryan budget would make conditions even worse by ignoring the congressionally approved agreement to split the cuts between defense and non-defense spending.

Fifty million students, especially those in high-poverty communities and those with disabilities, would bear the brunt of the education cuts directly in the form of larger class sizes, less individualized attention, and fewer classroom teachers and support staff.

Ryan would also dismantle key programs that protect families through tough times, including Medicaid, which provides healthcare for one-third of American children. The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program and other anti-hunger programs would be cut so deeply that many low-income families would lose benefits altogether.

College would be an unattainable dream for even more of our nation’s talented young people, with the maximum Pell Grant award frozen for an entire decade.

“His budget is an American Dream killer,” said Arizona teacher and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. “Paul Ryan continues to balance the budget on the backs of the nation’s most vulnerable—low- and moderate-income Americans, children, students, and seniors—while failing to demand corporations and the rich to pay their fair share.”

Educators like Taylor-Gerken know how relentless cuts to education funding can affect students and their families directly. “I worked a lot with special education students who were on a track to go to college,” she said, “and shortly after I retired in 2010, all of those programs were dropped due to education cuts.”

“We’re told again and again that there’s no money for public schools and yet elected leaders don’t ask everyone to pay their fair share. We’d better start organizing now for the elections this fall or we could end up with the radical GOP dominating both houses of Congress,” she said.

“Then we’d better put on our seat belts, because it’s going to be a rough ride.”

via The Ryan Budget: A roadmap to ruin for schools, students and families « Education Votes.

Wis. Teacher Refuses Award From Paul Ryan During MLK Ceremony: ‘Lackey for the 1%’ | Video |

28 Dec

A Wisconsin teacher refused to accept an award from Rep. Paul Ryan during a ceremony last week, saying he couldn’t do so “in good conscience” because of the Republican congressman’s politics.

Al Levie, a high school social studies teacher in Racine, Wis., was one of three recipients of a Martin Luther King Jr. humanitarian award during a celebration honoring the late civil rights leader. Ryan, who represents the district, was on hand to present congressional recognitions to each award winner, the Kenosha News reported:

After Ryan spoke, Levie criticized the congressman’s policies before being walked off the stage. Levie had earlier stated that he would like to see collective bargaining restored in Wisconsin, fair immigration reform and a fair tax system among other suggestions.

In a video of the ceremony, Ryan is seen stepping from behind the podium to hand the award to Levie, who backs away and instead turns to speak to the audience. His words aren’t audible, but according to the video’s captions he said, “I can’t in good conscience accept this award, as a humanitarian, Paul Ryan stands for everything I don’t believe in.”

“Oh come on,” one person is heard saying.

“For the kids!” someone else adds.

The video was posted by Wisconsin Jobs Now, a coalition of community groups from across the state that advocates for “the 99 percent.” Levie appeared on the video afterward to explain his protest.

“I would not accept the award from Paul Ryan because Paul Ryan is a lackey for the 1 percent,” he said. “Paul Ryan had no business at a Martin Luther King event, it’s totally hypocritical. On the one hand he votes to slash health care, while on the other hand, King dedicated his life and he died for it, for people to have adequate healthcare, to have adequate jobs.”

“King made it very clear that he was on the side of working people,” he continued. “Ryan on the other hand, he has absolutely no affinity for the working class and for him to come to an event where somebody of King’s stature was honored is wrong.”

According to the Racine Journal Times, Levie serves with Voces de la Frontera, an advocacy group for immigrant and low wage worker rights, and is part of the local NAACP. He’s also a teacher and program director for the Wisconsin Correctional Service.

via Wis. Teacher Refuses Award From Paul Ryan During MLK Ceremony: ‘Lackey for the 1%’ | Video |

Brady proposes vouchers for Chicago students

8 Aug

Republican state Sen. Bill Brady is proposing legislation to provide tuition vouchers to families of Chicago Public Schools students whose schools have been closed.

The Bloomington lawmaker is one of four Republicans running for Illinois governor in 2014.

Brady spoke Wednesday outside the administrative offices of the Chicago Public Schools, which voted in May to close 50 schools and programs.

He says the measure would provide families with a voucher from the State Board of Education to use at a participating private school of their choosing. The value would be tuition at the school or $3,700, whichever is less.

Brady says his proposed pilot program would give parents a choice in their children’s education. He says he believes “with greater parental involvement comes greater student achievement.”

via Brady proposes vouchers for Chicago students.

850 teachers, staffers get pink slips at closing, ‘turnaround’ schools – Chicago Sun-Times

14 Jun

About 850 teachers and staffers at schools doomed to either close this month or to reboot their staffs were handed pink slips Friday afternoon, according to Chicago Public Schools.

At the 48 closing schools, 420 teachers of 1,005 total lost their jobs, plus 110 paraprofessionals and 133 bus aides and part-timers. At the five schools headed for “turnaround,” where the children remain in the building but all the adults are replaced, 192 staffers were laid off: 125 teachers, 20 paraprofessionals, 20 bus aides and part-timers and 27 clerks, custodians and security staffers. More…

via 850 teachers, staffers get pink slips at closing, ‘turnaround’ schools – Chicago Sun-Times.

Chicago Principals Told to Spy on Protestors Tomorrow | Diane Ravitch’s blog

26 Mar

In Chicago, the corporate reformers who claim to be leading “the civil rights movement of our time” are closing down schools in black communities. How this enhances the civil rights of the children is a mystery known only to the elites.

This is a news bulletin from the Chicago Teachers Union about tomorrow’s protest demonstration:


March 26, 2013

Secret Memo: CPS warns principals about possible civil disobedience in response to massive school closings

School officials asked to spy on demonstrators, take note of media

CHICAGO – The day before educators from the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) intend to join with parents, students, clergy, community leaders, civil rights activists and the rank-and-file members of SEIU Local 1 and Unite HERE Local 1; the union released a confidential memo sent to the city’s public school principals warning them of potential civil disobedience actions in protest of school closings. Mayor Rahm Emanuel will seek to shutter more than 50 neighborhood schools in the African American community by the end of this school year.

Thousands of parents, students, teachers, paraprofessionals and school clinicians attended various hearings across the city where they presented evidence that their schools were not being “underutilized” and begged for them not to be closed. Despite the outcry, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) chief executive listened instead to a politically-connected, ad-hoc commission she created and has since recommended 61 school actions, including the closings. Should the Board approve, this will be the largest closing of schools in a single school district in the nation’s history.

CPS’s announcement was met with shock, outrage, disbelief and defiance. While many of those impacted have vowed to fight until the end to save their neighborhood school from closure, others plan to rally downtown on Wednesday, March 27th, to illustrate their demand for education justice. People will gather at 4 p.m. at Daley Plaza where they will proceed to City Hall and to Board of Education headquarters.

Preparing for what could be the spark of 21st century Civil Rights Movement in Chicago, the school district recently instructed principals to prepare for the worst. “Be approachable and supportive to feelings of unrest, anxiety or dissatisfaction” the secret memo read. “Observe and report all information regarding possible protestors, locations, dates and times… Is the media present? Which news outlet(s)?”

The CTU obtained the memorandum from a source who has requested anonymity for fear of repercussions. “They’ve asked us to do a lot of things that I’m not happy with, but some of this is going too far,” the person said.

CTU President Karen Lewis, “Why are they asking principals to work as agents of this administration when they are the ones who have created a climate of chaos? Civil disobedience is a direct response to unjust policies and practices. We intend to use whatever nonviolence protest actions we have in this fight for education justice.

“The bottom line is the schools targeted for closure are based on the racial makeup of those schools and their zip codes,” Lewis said. “We will continue to plead our cause, fight in the courts and in the streets for what is right for our students and our communities. They can start with a moratorium on all school actions now.”


The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at .


via Chicago Principals Told to Spy on Protestors Tomorrow | Diane Ravitch’s blog.

The Democratic Party’s Anti-Democratic Education Policy

26 Mar

This post is republished from the Education Opportunity Network, a new online publication edited by Jeff Bryant.

Chicago, the city famous for “big shoulders,” has a big mouth, too.

Spurred by an alarming level of school building closures – 61 in all – mandated by Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration, Chicagoans are speaking out loudly and forcefully against a plan to “downsize the facility footprint of the district.”

A point being made most vociferously, according to Huffington Post, is the blatant discriminatory context of the closures due to the fact that “the schools slated for closure are all elementary schools and are overwhelmingly black and in low-income neighborhoods.”

While the rationale for closing the schools, or not, gets quickly into the weeds – are the schools really “underutilized” and “under performing,” does the city really have a budget “emergency” – what has gone completely unaddressed is the incoherence that an edict of this nature has been promulgated by a mayoral administration claiming the mantle of the Democratic party.

Once upon a time, the Democratic Party had this reputation for promoting policies that were supportive of educating African American children. It was left-leaning factions of the Democratic Party that led efforts to desegregate schools, use Title I funds to ensure some equity of funding for schools that poor kids attend, and push for the rights of teachers working in those schools to have some say in ensuring school children were well served.

The idea that the way to improve the education of African American children is to close their schools seems bizarre from the point of view of anyone purporting to be a Democrat. More…

via The Democratic Party’s Anti-Democratic Education Policy.

Senate passes Murray budget thanks in part to educator activists | Education Votes

25 Mar

Over the course of the ongoing battle over the federal budget, tens of thousands of educators reached out to their members of Congress to tell them to put students first and protect education from arbitrary and devastating budget cuts.

It seems Congress was listening. This past weekend, the Senate made its first move in fighting the draconian cuts to federal spending by passing the Murray budget 50-49.

The budget, crafted by Budget Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (D-Washington), would protect federal education funding and job creation. It would reverse the across-the-board sequester cuts that will hack another $3 billion from federal education spending unless Congress acts.

The Murray budget stands in stark contrast to the Ryan budget, which drastically cuts federal funding by $5 trillion in the next 10 years. The Ryan budget narrowly passed the House 221-207, with all Democrats and 10 Republicans voting against it.

Danette Reid is a Florida high school teacher who stands behind Sen. Murray and other members of Congress who want to see the sequester cuts reversed and to see education funding protected.

“You get what you pay for. If you want substandard education and failing test scores, by all means, cut the budget,” said Reid. “However, if you want successful students ready to take on the demands of the current employment market, it’s vital to fund education.”

Despite this Senate victory, there is still work to be done in the fight for education funding. Virginia educator Amy-Leigh Smart Montgomery, for one, is fed up with elected leaders who aren’t sticking up for students.

“I will engage in every avenue at my disposal to be sure that the legislators who have a hand in letting these cuts go through feel the consequences of their actions just as bitterly as the children that are being thrown under the bus feel it,” said the high school English teacher.

She issued this warning to lawmakers who aren’t standing up for students – “Just remember, businesses can’t vote, but people do. Take the number of children in public school, multiply that by 1.5, and add all employees of public schools. That number is the number of votes you will lose in the next election.”

via Senate passes Murray budget thanks in part to educator activists | Education Votes.

Despite promise, not all schools on CPS closing list are sending kids to schools with – Chicago Sun-Times

23 Mar

Schools would only be closed if the children can be sent to better schools.

That was the promise of Chicago Public Schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett before CPS announced the largest school shakeup in the nation: the closing of 54 public elementary schools.

And students at nearly two thirds of those schools — 33 — will in fact be sent to academically stronger places, according to a Sun-Times analysis.

But children from another third are going to schools with CPS academic rankings similar to the schools they are leaving. And kids from at least eight of those schools are landing at facilities with lower state standardized test scores. More…

via Despite promise, not all schools on CPS closing list are sending kids to schools with – Chicago Sun-Times.

State Journal-Register : Our Opinion: Time for Quinn to act on Illinois’ fiscal cliff

20 Jan

The numbers in Gov. Pat Quinn’s three-year budget projection are stark and a reminder of Illinois’ own impending fiscal cliff, starting in 2015.

The 2011 income tax increase that raised the individual rate from 3 percent to 5 percent expires at the end of 2014, which is midway through the 2015 fiscal year. That means the budget lawmakers are supposed to pass by June of this year, FY2014, will be the last containing a full year of the increased revenue.

The governor’s budget office projects that state sources of revenue (the corporate and individual income taxes, the sales taxes and other miscellaneous sources) will dip from $29 billion in FY2014, to $27 billion in FY2015 to $24.8 billion in FY2016.

That means nearly $4 billion more in cuts at a time when health-care costs and required pension payments continue to rise and education and health care have already been whacked.

There was chatter at the Statehouse that Quinn would nudge the legislature to make the income tax increase permanent during the recent lame-duck session, but such an effort didn’t materialize after Senate President John Cullerton iced the idea, saying whether to extend the increase is an issue for the 2014 election.

It wouldn’t have to be if Quinn and the legislature decided to tackle reforming the state’s tax system before then.

Illinois’ tax structure is an archaic relic of the economy of 30 years ago. The state sales tax doesn’t tax the growing service sector. It doesn’t effectively tax online sales. Both the sales tax and our flat income tax disproportionately hit the poor and middle class. Two-thirds of the state’s corporations don’t pay the corporate income tax, partly because of special treatment afforded them in the tax code. More…

via State Journal-Register : Our Opinion: Time for Quinn to act on Illinois’ fiscal cliff.

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