Winger's Weekly Wrap-Up for May 21st

I recently attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new baseball field renovation at Springfield Park in Bloomingdale.  It was a great day to celebrate with the Bloomingdale Park District!

State Orders CPS to Grant Special Education Oversight

The move followed significant special education findings affecting Illinois’ largest school district.  The overarching theme of criticism against existing Chicago Public Schools (CPS) special education management was that despite spending $900 million annually for the benefit of 52,000 enumerated students with a broad range of special needs, the troubled school district had failed to meet a series of mandates set down by federal special education law.  Many of the 52,000 enumerated student affected by this order are young persons with individualized education programs (IEPs).

Under the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) order published on Wednesday, May 16, Chicago Public Schools are required to grant operational sign-off powers over much of its special education establishment to a monitor appointed by ISBE.  The monitor will oversee the implementation of a list of 40 mandated corrective actions.  Students affected by the order include students with learning issues, behavioral disabilities, and physical disabilities.  In cases uncovered by investigation, students and their families with diagnosed needs and challenges were unable to get help in a timely manner.

The duration of the takeover order will be at least three years.  Chicago Public Schools will have to get permission from the monitor to implement any changes to its special education policies and procedures.  Stakeholders will have the right to talk to the monitor and report ongoing special education problems and challenges within CPS.  The monitor will have the right to attend any and all CPS senior staff meetings at which operations are discussed.  The role of the appointed ISBE monitor will be akin, in some facets, to the “special masters” that can be appointed by federal courts under current law to oversee or assist in the oversight of school systems and other units of public infrastructure.  

U.S. Supreme Court Sports Betting Decision Affects Illinois

Placing large-scale and electronic bets on sports teams is currently prohibited in Illinois.  The Criminal Code ban on Illinois gambling covers many forms of wagering activity, with one sports-related exception that covers bets on horse racing.  Until this week, this ban was buttressed by a federal law enacted by Congress in 1992 that froze in place the laws of 46 U.S. states that forbade betting on sporting events.  Pushed by the state of New Jersey, the U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down this federal law.

The action by the federal high court opens the door for the General Assembly to begin to debate the amendment or modification of Illinois’ ban on sports betting.  Many Illinoisans will continue to oppose expansion of the State’s gambling industries.  Others may look at the revenues that taxing a gambling transaction can bring in – money that does not have to be extracted by incomes, sales, or property taxes.  Potential revenue estimates from the legalization of sports betting in Illinois range from $300 million to more than $600 million.

Record year announced for Illinois Tourism. 

Records from Illinois hotels, motels, and tourist attractions show that nearly 114 million visits were made to Illinois in 2017, up 1.4% from 2016.  The visitors spent $39.5 billion, up 3% from 2016, and supported the creation and maintenance of 335,500 jobs.  The numbers for 2017 were announced by Governor Rauner on Tuesday, May 15.   

The Illinois Office of Tourism encourages visits to Illinois as a way for persons from elsewhere to enjoy authentic U.S. “heartland” products and experiences.  Illinois experiences are featured in our State’s “Illinois Made” campaign.  Visitors pay taxes for goods and services such as hotel rentals, restaurant meals, local beverages, and rental motor vehicles.  Tourist travel to Illinois generated $2.95 billion in 2017 State and local tax revenue, representing $1,300 in tax payments for the average Illinois household.    

Quincy to Get Deep Well Water

Quincy traditionally gets its water from the Mississippi River.  However, recent health problems at the Quincy Veterans Home have pointed to the need to develop a new source for the city’s potable water.  A $6 million matching-funds grant will be used to switch Quincy’s water supply to a sand-and-gravel aquifer that is known to be flowing underneath the Quincy area.  The project was announced on Wednesday, May 16, by Governor Bruce Rauner.    

Cooler, cleaner groundwater should reduce health concerns at the Quincy Veterans Home, which uses piped Quincy water for drinking, cooking, and cleaning.  Tragic outbreaks of Legionella disease, caused by bacteria that live in stagnant warm water, have played a role in the deaths of some Veterans Home residents.  The Quincy Veterans Home, one of Western Illinois’ largest employment centers, houses more than 350 residents who are veterans of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses from Illinois.  The facility employs approximately 500 caregivers and support staff.

Even after cleaner water begins to flow throughout Quincy, additional work will be necessary at the Veterans Home complex.  The Rauner Administration, working with the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs, has published preliminary plans for the construction of an entirely new veterans’ complex in Quincy with new plumbing and piping.          

Illinois Bicentennial

Illinois’ Frank Lloyd Wright heritage is celebrated in the creation of the new Frank Lloyd Wright Trail, which will join the Illinois River Road and the Lincoln Heritage Trail among the networks of marked roads celebrating the Illinois experience.  The heritage of Frank Lloyd Wright is protected by owners of the 13 Wright-designed buildings open to the public throughout Illinois.  The modern architect’s Illinois masterpieces are capped by his own Home and Studio in Oak Park, owned and operated by the Frank Lloyd Wright Trust, and by the State  of Illinois-operated Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, with its 35 rooms filed with Wright-designed and Wright-approved fittings and furniture.  The Trail includes all 13 open-to-the-public sites. 

The work that eventuated in the creation of the Frank Lloyd Wright Trail was sparked by the Illinois General Assembly in the adoption of HJR 66 in summer 2017.  Work in 2017-18 led to the stamping of the metal signs that will be used this summer to mark the Trail on the roads of Illinois.              

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