A plan to build a new expressway linking Interstate highways in northern Illinois and Indiana ran into roadblocks during the past week, and an Illinois State Board of Education study confirmed the state’s school funding system benefits Chicago schools at the expense of downstate and suburban districts.
Illinois-Indiana Tollway Facing Obstacles
Efforts to move forward with the “Illiana Expressway” linking Interstate 55 and 57 in Illinois with Interstate 65 in Indiana were dealt a serious blow Oct. 9. The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) board rejected a plan placing the Illiana Expressway on the agency’s Go To 2040 long-term plan. However, CMAP doesn’t have the final say—the 19-member board of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) will determine the fate of the highway proposal during a final vote on Oct. 17.
A highway connecting Will County, Illinois with Lake County, Indiana has been discussed by transportation planners for years. Gov. Pat Quinn and then-Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels agreed in 2010 to coordinate state efforts to build the highway, and legislation was approved by the General Assembly that same year authorizing the project and outlining associated procurement, contractor and reporting requirements.
Supporters say a key east-west highway would significantly alleviate traffic on I-80, which has seen increased semi-truck traffic due to the number of intermodal centers in the region. Illinois Department of Transportation officials project the expressway construction would create approximately 9,000 construction jobs.
Opponents counter associated costs will soar past the projected $1.25 billion, far exceeding the anticipated economic and traffic relief benefits. Several organizations including Openlands, Sierra Club and Midewin Heritage Association have also filed lawsuits in federal court hoping to block momentum on the expressway, which they contend would harm the area’s natural resources.
The Illiana Expressway would run 47 miles from Interstate 55, near Wilmington through southern Will County to Interstate 65 just northeast of Lowell, Indiana.
A December hearing is set for the Northwest Indiana Planning agency to consider adding the project to its list for priority funding.
State Board Review Reveals Chicago Gets Millions More than Entitled
Inequities between the ways the state funds Chicago schools as opposed to schools throughout the rest of the state, which were first revealed in a special Senate Republican report (http://www.senategop.state.il.us/Portals/0/Docs/Cost-Shift-FINAL.pdf) issued in the spring, are again being highlighted.
The Illinois State Board of Education has issued a memo that confirms Chicago public schools are receiving about $235 million more than they would be entitled to if they were allocated special state grant dollars under the same formula as other schools in the state. The memo looked 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.
A bipartisan Senate Education Funding Advisory Committee has been meeting to examine school funding fairness issues. The group is to meet Oct. 16 at the Illinois Math and Science Academy (http://www.ilga.gov/senate/committees/hearing.asp?hearingid=11285&CommitteeID=1511) in Aurora beginning at 11:00 a.m. Another meeting has been set for Nov. 4 in Bloomington.
ISBE encourages public feedback at community meetings
Illinois residents are also being encouraged to weigh-in on what they think should be the state’s top education priorities at hearings hosted throughout the state by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE).
The public hearings will take place on the following dates and locations:
Wednesday, Oct. 23 – Immediately following board meeting (4 to 6 p.m.) – Carbondale – Carbondale Community High School Library, 1301 E. Walnut St., Carbondale, IL 62901
Tuesday, Nov. 12 – 4 to 6 p.m. – Champaign – Champaign Public Library, 200 W. Green St., Champaign, IL 61820
Thursday, Nov. 14 – 4 to 6 p.m. – Grayslake – College of Lake County, Auditorium, 19351 W. Washington St., Grayslake, IL 60030
Wednesday, Nov. 20 – 4 to 6 p.m. – Macomb – Macomb High School Library, 1525 S. Johnson St., Macomb, IL 61455
Friday, Nov. 22 – 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. – Chicago – Thompson Center, Conference Room 16-503, 100 W. Randolph St., Chicago, IL 60601
Those who are unable to attend one of the five public hearings can email any guidance or feedback to ISBE at: :ISBEFY15@isbe.net.
Quinn: Agencies Can’t Ask about Criminal Records
Gov. Quinn ordered state agencies Oct. 3 to remove from job application forms any question about past criminal history. 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 interviewing process.
Honoring Illinois’ Hispanic Heritage
Illinois is honoring our state’s growing Hispanic population by recognizing Latino trailblazers each day of the nationally recognized Hispanic Heritage Month. The state also hosted “Saluting Latino Inventors, Scientists and Innovators” in an exhibit at the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago early in October.
The exhibit at the Thompson Center focused on Latino inventors and innovators like Guillermo González Camarena (1917-1965), the Mexican inventor who developed the first color television transmitter.
Earlier this year, the Senate recognized the contributions of Latino patriots who served in the U.S. 65th Infantry Regiment (known as the Borinqueneers). Senate Resolution 160 honored this Latino-American unit that was originally comprised of Puerto Ricans, but has also included recruits with other Latino backgrounds. The regiment, formed before World War I, continues today, having deployed in the War against Terrorism and Operation Enduring Freedom.
Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.