Dale Righter

Illinois State Senator | 55th District


Senate Week in Review: October 7 – 11, 2013

Friday, October 11, 2013

Board of Education study reveals Chicago schools receive $235 million more than entitled

Inequities in the way the state funds Chicago Schools as opposed to downstate and suburban schools continue to draw attention.

Senate Republicans first highlighted the issue in a special Senate Republican report last spring, but more recently the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) released a memo confirming Chicago Public Schools receive approximately $235 million more than they would be entitled to if they were allocated special state grant dollars under the same formula as other Illinois school districts.

The memo provided a closer look at the state’s various education grants, including those for early childhood education, truancy alternatives, free and reduced lunch programs, special education, transportation and others.
Efforts to better understand the scope of these funding inequities, how they came about and how to rectify the situation, have been undertaken by the bi-partisan Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee, which has been meeting to examine school funding fairness issues. The group is to meet Oct. 16 at the Illinois Math and Science Academy in Aurora beginning at 11 a.m. Another meeting has been set for Nov. 4 in Bloomington.

Additionally, ISBE is encouraging Illinois residents to weigh-in on what they think should be the state’s top education funding priorities at hearings hosted throughout the state. Hearing dates have been posted online, but Illinois residents who are unable to attend the public forums can email feedback to ISBEFY15@isbe.net.

Registration open for fracking permits

The registration process for “fracking” permits is now available at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR).  However, registering with IDNR is only the first step in the process; permits will not be issued until rules and regulations have been put in place to ensure strict environmental standards are maintained.

Interested parties can visit the IDNR website’s Hydraulic Fracturing Regulatory Act section where registration materials can be found.  Those interested in applying for permits must be registered at least 30 days before submitting their first permit application.

Registration may have begun, but IDNR will not begin to accept applications or issue permits until draft administrative rules have been approved. Some downstate citizens groups and statewide environmental groups have taken a lead in the process by submitting proposed scientific and legal standards for IDNR and the General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules (JCAR) to consider.

These groups, which represent rural communities under consideration for hydraulic fracturing operations, sent a letter to JCAR and IDNR agency officials this week citing new scientific studies and academic research that they say should be considered before permits for hydraulic fracturing are issued in Illinois. Once IDNR has finished developing rules they will submit a draft to be approved by JCAR.

Quinn: Agencies Can't Ask about Criminal Records

Governor Quinn took action Oct. 3, ordering state agencies to remove any question about past criminal history from state job job application forms. The Governor took the action even though lawmakers have rejected similar legislation in the past.

Under the Governor’s new order, state job application forms will no longer ask if an applicant has been convicted of a crime. State agencies can still conduct background checks and request conviction information, but would not do so until the applicant has begun the interview process.

The state’s job application and screening agency, the Department of Central Management Services (CMS), must issue new guidelines for screening applicants for state government jobs that fall under the governor's jurisdiction.

The Governor’s action is seen by advocates as a first step toward prohibiting all potential employers from pre-screening applicants based on past criminal convictions. It is part of a national effort by criminal rights advocates that has been labeled “Ban the Box” after the idea of prohibiting employment forms from containing a check-box that asks applicants if they have been convicted of a crime.

In announcing the executive order, the Governor cited statistics that show one in four adults has some type of criminal record. But opponents argue that that same statistic could be used as a reason why the state ought to be carefully pre-screening job applicants.

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