WBEZ | Illinois http://www.wbez.org/tags/illinois Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Charter supporters rally against bills in Illinois legislature http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/IMG_3555.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Hundreds of Chicago charter school parents, students and alums rallied in Springfield Tuesday to oppose legislation they say will hurt charter schools.</p><p>The group started its day with a rally outside U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, with more than 20 tour buses lined up to take them to the capitol. Supporters wore yellow scarves and carried printed signs that read &ldquo;I choose charter.&rdquo;</p><p>Illinois Network of Charter Schools President Andrew Broy addressed parents and others before they departed to join up with supporters from other Illinois communities.</p><p>&ldquo;This is a statewide movement,&rdquo; Broy told the group. &ldquo;We face threats in Springfield that we&rsquo;ve never faced before. There are no fewer than twelve different bills in Springfield designed to limit your right to choose the best school for your student. And we&rsquo;re not going to let that happen.&rdquo;</p><p>Charter advocates planned to pack the capitol rotunda. They said they want state lawmakers to see the faces of charter parents and students, students they say would be hurt if those dozen pending bills are passed into law.</p><p>Some of the key bills being considered:</p><p>-SB2627/HB3754 would get rid of a charter school appeals commission that can approve charter schools even if&nbsp; the local school board denies them.</p><p>-SB3303 would prohibit charters from opening in the same zip code as a&nbsp; closed traditional school.</p><p>-HB4655/SB3004 would force charters to follow&nbsp; the same discipline policies that traditional schools follow.</p><p>-SB3030/HB6005 would forbid charter schools from marketing, prohibit charters from subcontracting with Educational Management Organizations and Charter Management Organizations to operate schools and create a compensation cap for school CEOs.</p><p>A number of the bills were introduced by suburban lawmakers. Their interest in charters was piqued last year when a for-profit company, K12, Inc., proposed opening virtual charter schools in more than a dozen suburban school districts. All the districts&nbsp; rejected the plan. As state law is currently written, the Illinois State Charter Commission could overrule those local districts.</p><p>That happened last year when the charter provider that operates Chicago Math and Science Academy tried to open up two new schools in the city. The school district denied the provider&rsquo;s request to expand, but when the organization appealed, the commission gave the go ahead.<br /><br />Charter advocates say a neutral committee needs to examine the merits of charter proposals, because school boards often have a disincentive&mdash;even if district schools are weak&mdash;to approve charters.<br /><br />Many students and parents at the morning Chicago rally said they were there to support individual schools.&nbsp;</p><p>Nahum Alcantar said he supports charter schools because he thinks his charter school has given him a better education than a public school could have. Alcantar, a senior at Chicago Math and Science Academy, went to Kilmer Elementary, a CPS neighborhood school, before enrolling at the charter.</p><p>&ldquo;I&rsquo;ve been to a charter school and I&rsquo;ve been to a public school and based on my experience &hellip; charter schools can ... provide the same amount of education that public schools can,&rdquo; Alcantar said. &ldquo;From the schools that I went (to) and compared to the charter school that I go (to)&nbsp; now I&rsquo;ve gotten a really better education.&rdquo;</p><p>Many also said they believe their charter schools are underfunded relative to traditional Chicago Public Schools.&nbsp; But the school district says charters and other schools get exactly equal funding.<br /><br />Although it has been a complaint from charter opponents, many rallying parents said they see no connection between charter schools opening and traditional schools closing</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not making that school worse, we&rsquo;re not making it a bad school. If they can&rsquo;t get the grades or what they need then they should close,&rdquo; said charter parent Amber Mandley. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not our (fault) it&rsquo;s happening, just because we want to keep our schools running doesn&rsquo;t mean we&rsquo;re trying to close CPS schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Ebony Edwards-Carr, who like Mandley has children at the Chicago International Charter School in Bucktown, said the day &ldquo;is about uniting&rdquo; parents, charter school or otherwise.<br />&nbsp;<br />The Chicago Teachers Union supports many of the bills on the table.</p><p>Its membership is threatened by charter school expansion; as charters expand and traditional schools close, Chicago Teachers Union&rsquo;s membership is dwindling. Charter teachers are not allowed to be represented by the CTU.<br /><br />Stacy Davis Gates, CTU&rsquo;s political director, said suburban districts are looking at Chicago as&nbsp; a &ldquo;cautionary tale&rdquo; where &ldquo;neighborhood schools have been chased out by charters.&rdquo; Gates said the state needs to &ldquo;close some of these loopholes&rdquo;&nbsp; in state charter law.</p><p>She said the bills being considered will bring more transparency and accountability to charter schools.&nbsp;</p><p><em>Patrick Smith is a WBEZ producer and reporter. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/pksmid">@pksmid</a>. Linda Lutton is WBEZ&rsquo;s education reporter, follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p></p> Tue, 08 Apr 2014 15:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/charter-supporters-rally-against-bills-illinois-legislature-109990 Immigrants face barriers on health care site http://www.wbez.org/news/immigrants-face-barriers-health-care-site-109698 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/ACA immigrants_web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than two months after the Obama administration declared <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">healthcare.gov</a> working &ldquo;smoothly for the vast majority of users,&rdquo; immigrants who try to sign up are still encountering serious glitches.</p><p>On Wednesday, federal officials <a href="http://www.hhs.gov/news/press/2014pres/02/20140212a.html">trumpeted</a> the fact that more than 1 million people signed up for private insurance in January, with Illinois accounting for nearly 89,000 of those enrollees. With fewer than 40 days until the deadline to enroll without incurring a penalty, much of the attention has turned to so-called &ldquo;young invincibles,&rdquo; a term for young, healthy people who will likely have lower health care costs.</p><p>There&rsquo;s no similar focus on immigrants, WBEZ has found, who continue to face significant hurdles with identity and citizenship verification, and faulty determinations of eligibility for Medicaid. In Illinois, the task of finding and navigating around those barriers often falls to scrappy enrollment specialists who work directly with those clients at community health centers. On top of their jobs, they are finding themselves tasked with bringing the glitches to the attention to state and federal authorities, and lobbying for them to be fixes.</p><p>Illinois, which is one of seven states to engage in a state-federal partnership, relies on the federal site to handle the enrollment function for plans offered on the state&rsquo;s insurance marketplace. Under the Affordable Care Act, immigrants are required to have insurance if they reside lawfully in the U.S. &ndash; even if they are not citizens.</p><p>&ldquo;Since November I have frequently made visits, and every time I made a visit I&rsquo;ve stayed at least 3-4 hours,&rdquo; said Zejna Belko, a 51-year old Bosnian immigrant who described her attempt to enroll in the healthcare exchange with the help of enrollment counselors at the Hamdard Center on Chicago&rsquo;s far North Side. &ldquo;We&rsquo;ve also had individuals from other agencies try to help us out.&rdquo;</p><p>Belko, who&rsquo;s lived in the U.S. with a green card for 16 years, said she&rsquo;s spent up to 30 hours working with enrollment specialists. Still, they haven&rsquo;t even been able to start her application because the system cannot verify her identity. So far, Belko has twice mailed identifying documents, such as copies of her green card and social security card, to the Department of Health and Human Services, to no avail.</p><p>&ldquo;My blood pressure rises,&rdquo; she said through a translator. &ldquo;I get very frustrated and angry because I&rsquo;m an honest person and I&rsquo;m not hiding anything, and I don&rsquo;t understand what the problem is. I just want to get health care coverage.&rdquo;</p><p>In a small health center in Wicker Park, Graciela Guzman said she sees these cases all the time. Most frequently, the issues with identity verification is done via checking an applicant&rsquo;s credit history &ndash; something Guzman said many newer immigrants don&rsquo;t yet have.</p><p>&ldquo;They haven&rsquo;t been here long enough to be considered &lsquo;bankable,&rsquo;&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Like a lot of them have been paid by cash. Maybe they don&rsquo;t have banks. Maybe they don&rsquo;t own property. So the system has a harder time just finding them.&rdquo;</p><p><strong>The Morning Shift: How an ACA enrollment specialist is helping immigrants in Chicago</strong></p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/134626873&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Guzman works with a team of five enrollment specialists at <a href="http://www.primecarechi.org/">PrimeCare Community Health</a>, a small clinic based in St. Elizabeth&rsquo;s Hospital in Chicago&rsquo;s Wicker Park neighborhood. About half of their clients are immigrants. Her team encounters hurdles to enrollment so frequently, they&rsquo;ve managed to cobble together a complicated flow sheet of workarounds. For identity verification problems, they&rsquo;ve found that calling the federal Health Insurance Marketplace Call Center, and later uploading or mailing a client&rsquo;s identification documents, usually helps to get an application started</p><p>But there are other barriers. Through trial and error, they found success in ignoring the site&rsquo;s directions to fill out information completely, and instead repeatedly clicking &ldquo;continue and save&rdquo; when they get an error on citizenship verification. The most significant challenge, however, appears not to have a workaround.</p><p>&ldquo;Most of our clients receive incorrect eligibility determinations, that tell them that they&rsquo;re eligible for Medicaid,&rdquo; said Guzman.</p><p>This is the case for lawful permanent residents whose incomes would qualify for Medicaid, but who are barred from enrolling in that program because they&rsquo;ve lived in the U.S. less than five years. Once the site directs an enrollee to apply for Medicaid, it does not allow them back onto the private healthcare exchange, where these clients should be.</p><p>&ldquo;We have brought this to the attention of our federal counterparts,&rdquo; said a state spokesman, &ldquo;and we believe they have been working to address it by adding new questions to <a href="https://www.healthcare.gov/">healthcare.gov</a> late last week that will allow people to get through to the Marketplace once they have been issued a denial.&rdquo;</p><p>In other words, immigrants are advised to apply for Medicaid even when they know they are ineligible for it, just to receive a denial. But since Medicaid eligibility was expanded under the Affordable Care Act, a backlog in applications has led to significantly longer processing times.&nbsp;</p><p>Guzman and her team of so-called &ldquo;navigators&rdquo; say, as they discover glitches, they&rsquo;ve relayed them to state and federal officials. So far, they have enrolled more than 600 immigrants to the healthcare exchange. In addition to the discoveries they&rsquo;ve made about getting through the technical difficulties, the team is also working out ways to handle the unexpected emotional impact of the job.</p><p>&ldquo;On our days off, we&rsquo;re constantly thinking about patients, which is like ludicrous,&rdquo; said Martin Jurado, who works with Guzman at PrimeCare. &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t think anybody else does that. You know? Somebody that you&rsquo;ve barely met, you barely know, yet you know everything about their life, what they&rsquo;re going through, and you&rsquo;re carrying that, and a lot of people didn&rsquo;t tell you that, starting off the bat.&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman found that <a href="http://guzmangraciela.wordpress.com/">blogging </a>helps her process their experiences. She writes of frustrations with the healthcare exchange website, but also about clients that stick in her head.</p><p>&ldquo;People really weren&rsquo;t hearing the complexity of the website, they weren&rsquo;t hearing people&rsquo;s fears and difficulties in getting through the website,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;And so we wanted to share some of what&rsquo;s going on.&rdquo;</p><p>Together, she said, they have come to realize they are witnessing a moment: droves of people are coming out of the shadows because the law requires them to &ndash; and they&rsquo;re coming with needs that extend far beyond just health care.</p><p>&ldquo;We get them comfortable and primed, hopefully, for enrollment,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but then they&rsquo;ll turn around and kind of like almost offhandedly be like, &lsquo;so you helped me with this, can you help me with housing? Can you help me with food stamps? I have some domestic stuff going on, where do I go?&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>Guzman said she believes they&rsquo;re on the frontier of a new phase. She, Jurado, and the rest of their team will stick around after the crush of enrollment ends March 31st, helping people change or update their health plans. But she said they&rsquo;ll also continue to serve as access points to community resources when immigrants don&rsquo;t know where to go.</p><p><em>Odette Yousef is WBEZ&rsquo;s North Side Bureau reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/oyousef" style="text-decoration:none;">@oyousef</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/WBEZoutloud" style="text-decoration:none;">@WBEZoutloud</a></em></p></p> Thu, 13 Feb 2014 12:29:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/immigrants-face-barriers-health-care-site-109698 Can you persuade kids to ditch soda for water? http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Water Tasting Photo.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>February is &ldquo;<a href="http://www.rethinkyourdrinknow.com/ryd/Home">Rethink Your Drink</a>&rdquo; month in Illinois, by proclamation of Gov. Pat Quinn. And the drinks that consumers are being asked to rethink are the high-cal beverages that many Illinoisans and other Americans polish off by the liter.</p><p>The campaign to raise awareness about the health effects of sugary beverages coincides with a<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-02-03/excess-sugar-may-double-heart-disease-risk-researchers-say.html"> new study</a> linking excess sugar consumption to increased risk of heart disease.</p><p>Schools, churches, and state agencies are holding programs as part of the campaign aimed at improving Illinois residents&rsquo; soft drink habits.</p><p>One novel approach was launched last week at Brooks Middle School in the west Chicago suburb of Oak Park, which focused on quenching thirst with water rather than pop.</p><p>Sandy Noel, a retired teacher and co-chairwoman of the Governor&rsquo;s Council on Health and Fitness, told students, &ldquo;When you&rsquo;re dehydrated, your brain kind of goes from a grape to a raisin. It actually shrinks a little bit and you feel a little wilted.&rdquo;</p><p>The 7th and 8th graders then lined up for a taste-off pitting two flavors of infused water, one strawberry-lemon and the other cucumber-lime.</p><p>As the kids filed through the tasting lines, their votes seemed to lean toward the strawberry-infused water. But the tasting process also left them with some new opinions on beverages in general.&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I know our body doesn&rsquo;t really need sugar all the time,&rdquo; said Tate Ferguson, &ldquo;and so if you want something that tastes good and is better for your body, you should drink this.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I like the cucumber-lime water,&rdquo; said Max Walton. &ldquo;I think I would definitely drink it during sports because it gets you more hydrated than soda.&rdquo; &nbsp;</p><p>Like their male classmates, many of the girls said they were open to swapping their usual drinks for water in the future.</p><p>&ldquo;Usually before I do martial arts, I am really tired, so I just have an energy drink,&rdquo; said Zoharia Drizin. &ldquo;So if I start drinking this instead, I think I will be energized in a healthier way.&rdquo;</p><p>Her classmate Claire Cooke agreed. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;I would totally choose this over soda because it&rsquo;s much better for you,&rdquo; Cooke said. &ldquo;Soda makes you more thirsty, but water keeps you energized for a long period of time. I&rsquo;m in a lot of musical theater and when I&rsquo;m dancing I need lots of water.&rdquo;</p><p>For Abby Nichol, the contest was a little closer.</p><p>&ldquo;I love soda,&rdquo; she said, &ldquo;but this is very, very close to it. So it&rsquo;s actually a very tough choice. Personally, I like this a little bit more than soda.&rdquo;</p><p>In the case of one student, the presentation -- which included displays of the amounts of sugar in soda and sports drinks -- made her rethink her lunchtime drink.</p><p>&ldquo;I usually have a Gatorade in my lunch,&rdquo; said Cait Egan, a 7th grader. &ldquo;But now I am starting to double guess that, because I saw how much sugar is in a Gatorade. And I think this water tastes better to me.&rdquo;</p><p>Still not all of the students agreed. Alec Fragos was especially outspoken in his opposition.</p><p>&ldquo;It was like drinking out of a faucet,&rdquo; Fragos said. &ldquo;It didn&rsquo;t have any taste. I wouldnt choose it over soda because I don&rsquo;t feel it would help me feel more hydrated &hellip; It&rsquo;s got no pop in the mouth. It&rsquo;s kind of flat.&rdquo;</p><p>Rethink Your Drink organizers say Fragos and other holdouts will have more opportunities for conversion in the future. The Oak Park Middle Schools plan to repeat the tasting monthly with new flavor combinations each time. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p><em>Monica Eng is a WBEZ producer and co-host of the&nbsp;</em><em><strong><a href="http://www.wbez.org/content/chewing-fat-podcast-louisa-chu-and-monica-eng">Chewing the Fat</a></strong></em><em>&nbsp;podcast. Follow her at&nbsp;<a href="https://twitter.com/monicaeng">@monicaeng</a> or write to her at&nbsp;</em><em><a href="mailto:meng@wbez.org">meng@wbez.org</a></em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 10 Feb 2014 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/can-you-persuade-kids-ditch-soda-water-109677 Chicago civil rights film gets National Film Registry recognition http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-12/chicago-civil-rights-film-gets-national-film-registry-recognition-109435 <p><p dir="ltr">The year 2013 is ending on a high note for Chicago film. Cicero March, a short film documenting a historic local civil rights march, was selected by the Library of Congress for its National Film Registry.</p><p dir="ltr">The library selects 25 films each year for the registry, and most tend to be significant theatrical productions. This year is no different, as the <a href="http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2013/13-216.html">big, popular films on the list</a> include Gilda, Pulp Fiction, The Magnificent Seven, and Judgement at Nuremberg.</p><p dir="ltr">But tucked among those titles was Cicero March -- a short independent documentary from the Chicago-based <a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/collections/index.php/Detail/Object/Show/object_id/689">Film Group</a> that details a significant moment in the region&rsquo;s history.</p><p dir="ltr">On Sept. 4, 1966, Robert Lucas of the <a href="http://www.congressofracialequality.org/">Congress of Racial Equality (CORE)</a> led protestors on a march through Cicero, located on the city&rsquo;s western border and then racially segregated.</p><p dir="ltr">The march was supposed to be led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. King had been in Chicago since January, and along with other activists, had faced many mobs in white communities such as Marquette Park.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/women%20watching.png" style="height: 258px; width: 350px; float: right;" title="Cicero residents photograph a historic anti-segregation march through the Chicago suburb in 1966 (photo courtesy Chicago Film Archive)" />But in August of that year, a <a href="http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_chicago_campaign/">&ldquo;summit&rdquo; </a>was held between King, then Mayor Richard J. Daley, the city&rsquo;s housing authority, and various real estate interests. Out of that emerged an agreement on open housing.</div><p dir="ltr">CORE was based in Chicago and well-seasoned by its efforts against segregation in Chicago public schools. And CORE activist Lucas <a href="http://digital.wustl.edu/e/eii/eiiweb/luc5427.0872.098marc_record_interviewee_process.html">considered the housing agreement a sham</a> and decided to go ahead with the march.</p><p dir="ltr">Once again, protestors were confronted by angry residents who lined the route, shouting, swearing, and threatening violence.</p><p dir="ltr">But as the Film Group documented, the marchers, flanked by police and armed National Guardsmen, were not afraid to respond.</p><p dir="ltr">As helicopters hovered overhead, residents hurled taunts such as, &ldquo;You should have washed before coming here,&rdquo; and &ldquo;Hey, the Brookfield Zoo is that way!&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">In response one of the marchers yells, &ldquo;Don&rsquo;t stop, just keep it coming, just keep coming, don&rsquo;t stop. You fat punk, I think I see what you&rsquo;re made of. You fat punk -- and your momma, too!&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Cicero March is in the collection of the <a href="http://www.chicagofilmarchives.org/">Chicago Film Archive</a> (CFA). [Disclosure: The writer is on the advisory board of the CFA.]</p><p dir="ltr">The original print was a well-worn circulating copy from the Chicago Public Library&rsquo;s collection of 16mm films. After contacting Mike Grey and William Cottle of the Film Group, the CFA raised money to restore one of its prints of the film.</p><p dir="ltr">Anne Wells, the CFA&rsquo;s collections manager, says this was the third year in which the organization submitted Cicero March to the Library of Congress for consideration.</p><p dir="ltr">She finds it incredible that the footage even exists.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;They were the only news cameramen there,&rdquo; said Wells. &ldquo;So to the best of our knowledge, this is the only moving image footage of this civil rights march.&quot;</p><p dir="ltr">Wells thinks inclusion in the National Film Registry is a well-deserved nod to non-commercial Midwestern filmmaking, and recognition that this moment in history happened.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s ugly,&rdquo; said Wells. &ldquo;But you don&rsquo;t want to hide that past. It&rsquo;s a very emotional film, that this happened here.&rdquo;</p><p>All of the films selected for the National Film Registry have been deemed &ldquo;culturally, aesthetically or historically&rdquo; significant.</p><p><em><a class="underlined" href="http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0" rel="author">Alison Cuddy </a> is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter </a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison"> Facebook </a> and <a href="http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram</a>. </em></p></p> Tue, 24 Dec 2013 09:28:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-12/chicago-civil-rights-film-gets-national-film-registry-recognition-109435 Flipping the traditional definition of 'homework' http://www.wbez.org/news/flipping-traditional-definition-homework-109399 <p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/flipped%20class_131218_bv%20%285%29_0.jpg" style="float: left; height: 211px; width: 175px;" title="Every classroom at Havana High School has an online website. (WBEZ/Becky Vevea)" />As a parent, one of the most frustrating tasks may be helping your child with his or her homework. After all, it&rsquo;s been years since you opened a calculus textbook or diagrammed sentences.</p><p dir="ltr">Teachers in the Greater Chicago area and across Illinois are experimenting with a new teaching method that flips homework on its head. Instead of asking students to do high level thinking for homework, teachers assign video lectures and then work on problems and projects at school.</p><p dir="ltr">WBEZ producer Becky Vevea visited a school downstate&mdash;Havana High School&mdash;that is flipping instruction. Her report aired on the Morning Shift on Dec. 18, 2013.</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 18 Dec 2013 12:17:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/flipping-traditional-definition-homework-109399 Gay couple to get Illinois marriage license early http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-couple-get-illinois-marriage-license-early-109254 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/gay marriage passes - AP Seth Perlman_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A federal court ruling means a same-sex Chicago couple will be allowed to marry before the state&#39;s gay marriage law takes effect.</p><p>U.S. District Judge Thomas Durkin on Monday ordered the Cook County clerk to issue an expedited marriage license to Vernita Gray and Patricia Ewert. Gray is terminally ill.</p><p>County Clerk David Orr said he&#39;ll comply with the order.</p><p>Illinois&#39; gay marriage law takes effect June 1. But the gay rights group Lambda Legal and the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois filed a lawsuit seeking immediate action for Gray and Ewert. Gray has cancer in her brain and bones.</p><p>Camilla Taylor of Lambda Legal says Gray wants to marry the woman she loves before she dies.</p><p>Orr notes expedited licenses are granted to heterosexual couples in similar situations.</p></p> Tue, 26 Nov 2013 06:02:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/gay-couple-get-illinois-marriage-license-early-109254 Chicago writer's passion for opera tied to memories of JFK's death http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-writers-passion-opera-tied-memories-jfks-death-109228 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Capture_0.PNG" alt="" /><p><p>Richard Rothschild is a freelance writer and editor living in Oak Park, Illinois. On the night of November 22, 1963, Rothschild was supposed to see a performance of Richard Wagner&#39;s &quot;Götterdämmerung&quot; at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City.</p><p>The performance was cancelled because of President John F. Kennedy&#39;s assassination. But as the weekend unfolded, the 13-year-old began to see parallels between the tragedy of the stage and the tragedy of real life.</p></p> Fri, 22 Nov 2013 16:18:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/chicago-writers-passion-opera-tied-memories-jfks-death-109228 DCFS actions prompt calls for change http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-actions-prompt-calls-change-109171 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/Gizzell Ford.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Lawmakers need to address the rising number of children who are dying from abuse and neglect in Illinois and also what more can be done to prevent deaths of children who have come onto the radar of state child-welfare workers, a key legislator said Friday in response to a <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155" target="_blank"><em>Chicago Sun-Times </em>and WBEZ investigation</a>.</p><p>&ldquo;What you have brought up here shows us there&rsquo;s a great need to redouble our efforts to work on protection of kids,&rdquo; said state Rep. Greg Harris, who chairs the House Appropriations-Human Resources Committee.</p><p>&ldquo;Clearly, one death, one serious injury, is one too many, and there seems to be room for improvement.&rdquo;</p><blockquote><p><strong>SPECIAL REPORT: <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-losing-more-children-child-abuse-and-neglect-any-time-last-30-years-109155" target="_blank">Illinois is losing more children to child abuse and neglect than any time in the last 30 years</a></strong></p></blockquote><p>Denise Kane, the Department and Children and Family Services&rsquo; inspector general, offered her own suggestions Friday for improving child safety &mdash; calling for fixes including better coordination between police and child-welfare workers and shifting the hours that DCFS investigators work so they can have more interaction with families.</p><p>&ldquo;The department still doesn&rsquo;t have a liaison with the Chicago Police Department so that we can work together,&rdquo; Kane said. &ldquo;That&rsquo;s insane.&rdquo;</p><p>She pointed to the death of Christopher Valdez, a 4-year-old boy from Gage Park on the city&rsquo;s Southwest Side who was beaten to death in 2011 by his mother&rsquo;s boyfriend. Shortly before his death, the police had arrested his mother for beating him, and she was convicted. But DCFS and the courts allowed Christopher to resume living with her even though other family members said they were willing to care for him.</p><p>Kane described the lack of communication between the police and DCFS on the Valdez case as &ldquo;wrong.&rdquo; A spokesman for the police department didn&rsquo;t immediately respond to a request for comment.</p><p>She also said DCFS needs to stagger child-protection investigators&rsquo; work shifts so more can be on the job evenings and nights, when families are home.</p><p>&ldquo;I don&rsquo;t understand this 8:30 to 5, not when you&rsquo;re dealing with families,&rdquo; she said. &ldquo;Working-class families, they ain&rsquo;t home until after 5.&rdquo;</p><p>Her statements came before Gov. Pat Quinn <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/illinois-dcfs-director-resign-due-illness-109166" target="_blank">announced Calica&rsquo;s resignation Friday afternoon</a>. The governor&rsquo;s office said Calica &ldquo;has been diagnosed with cancer&rdquo; and would step down immediately because of the diagnosis.</p><p>Analyzing 10 years of Kane&rsquo;s reports about DCFS-involved abuse and neglect deaths, the <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ found there have been 228 such deaths between July 1, 2002, and June, 30, 2012. The number of deaths more than doubled between 2010 and 2011 &mdash; from 15 to 34 &mdash; then held steady at 34 in 2012.</p><p>Statewide, there were 111 child abuse and neglect death cases in a 12-month period ending in mid-2013, the most in Illinois in 30 years.</p><p>Responding to the findings, Harris said: &ldquo;I&rsquo;m going to be following up on the investigative pieces that the <em>Sun-Times</em> and WBEZ reported and certainly talk to principals, talk to experts in the field. We very well may have some hearings.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Tony Arnold is a reporter for WBEZ.&nbsp;</em><em>Chris Fusco is a Sun-Times reporter.</em></p></p> Sat, 16 Nov 2013 14:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/dcfs-actions-prompt-calls-change-109171 New Illinois school report cards mean less data http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-school-report-cards-mean-less-data-109118 <p><p>Illinois education leaders have been <a href="http://www.isbe.net/news/2013/oct23.htm" target="_blank">touting </a>the state&rsquo;s new &ldquo;report cards&rdquo; for schools, saying the redesigned report cards make it easier for parents to understand how schools are doing, and add information that rounds out the public&rsquo;s picture of their schools.</p><p>But in the week since the report cards have been out, parents, journalists and advocates have noticed that other important Illinois school data&mdash;and an interactive web site that made the information accessible&mdash;have disappeared. Complaints from schools about the missing data are prompting the state to re-publish the prior web site along with the new report card site, which cost $600,000 and took years to develop.</p><p>There are 4,000 schools in Illinois, and for each one, the state collects thousands of bits of data&mdash;information about student race, teacher salaries, average class size. Test scores sliced and diced dozens of ways. Altogether, it adds up to millions of little facts about Illinois schools.</p><p>And for just over a decade there was a web site called the Illinois Interactive Report Card&mdash;formerly at http://iirc.niu.edu&mdash;that took all that data and made it understandable to regular people.</p><p>&ldquo;It had an array of tools that allowed you to compare schools and school districts across the state very, very easily,&rdquo; says George Clowes, senior fellow with the Heartland Institute and former editor of <a href="http://heartland.org/issue-archive/school-reform-news">School Reform News</a>. Clowes says it was easy to pick criteria and then see how a particular school or district stacked up.</p><p>&ldquo;It was one of those cases where a picture is worth a thousand, two thousand, three thousand words. You could see very quickly how that district sat and what the picture was statewide.&rdquo;</p><p>But last week, when Illinois switched to a new parent friendly report card&mdash;<a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/" target="_blank">illinoisreportcard.com</a>&mdash;the Illinois Interactive Report Card web site and much of the data that fueled it went away.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img a="" alt="A scatter plot George Clowes once made with the former IIRC site that shows the relationship between the percentage of low-income students in a school and test scores. (Courtesy George Clowes) " and="" between="" class="image-original_image" clowes="" courtesy="" former="" george="" iirc="" in="" low-income="" made="" of="" once="" percentage="" relationship="" scatter="" school="" scores.="" shows="" site="" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/scatterplot.JPG" students="" style="width: 612px; height: 438px;" test="" that="" the="" title="A " with="" /></div><p>&ldquo;I just came to grips with it Friday of last week,&rdquo; says Rodney Estvan, an advocate for students with disabilities with the organization Access Living. &ldquo;I spent about four hours trying to search through it. I kept thinking that I wasn&rsquo;t seeing a link for greater detail. So I kept looking for pulldowns that were not there.&rdquo;</p><p>Estvan says the new site is easy to navigate, but he says he used the old interactive site to help parents.</p><p>&ldquo;I would get questions from parents like, &lsquo;Is this a good school or a bad school for kids with disabilities?&rsquo; So I could do a comparison. That is not easily available now.&nbsp; Nor is any of the grade level data. So for example, you can&rsquo;t see the progression of achievement by grade level and look at where things may be stalling in your school.&rdquo;</p><p>Parents can no longer easily visualize achievement gaps between different racial or income groups at their kids&rsquo; schools, nor can they see 10 years of demographic trends like they could before. Also gone are &ldquo;scatter plots&rdquo; that allowed users to compare relationships between factors like district spending and test scores.</p><p>Chicago mom Jeanne Marie Olson, who works with data and co-founded the <a href="http://cpsapples2apples.wordpress.com/page/2/" target="_blank">Apples2Apples</a> school data project, says the public is losing context. She said the new site is &ldquo;oversimplified to the point where I as a parent am not finding it as useful as the previous iteration.&rdquo;</p><p>The interactive web site was <a href="http://www.niu.edu/rdi/contacts/hsmith.shtml" target="_blank">born at Northern Illinois University in 2001</a>, and existed on floppy disks before that. Since 2003, NIU has had a contract with the state to update the data every year and maintain the web site, which gets about 30,000 hits per month, according to staff at the university.</p><p>Beginning around midnight on October 31, the day the state released 2013 school data, visitors to the Illinois Interactive Report Card web site were redirected to the state&rsquo;s new report card site&mdash;which shows just two years of test scores rather than the 10-year trends shown on the interactive site. A number of fields on the new report card site are blank. For instance, users who click on one new measure, the number of middle school students passing Algebra I, get a &ldquo;<a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/State.aspx?source=Trends&amp;source2=MiddleSchoolStudentsPassingAlgebraI&amp;Stateid=IL" target="_blank">Coming in 2014</a>&rdquo; screen.</p><p>&ldquo;It&#39;s like the web site had a prefrontal lobotomy,&rdquo; says Clowes. &ldquo;What a huge loss of an invaluable data analysis tool. Now the IIRC just functions as a robot data presentation tool.&rdquo;</p><p>The state and proponents of the new report card say it was never the intent to take any data or analytical capabilities away. Illinois State Board of Education spokeswoman Mary Fergus says producing the new report card was a major effort&mdash;one mandated by law&mdash;that required collecting and posting new measures of school progress, including survey data about schools and things like course offerings.</p><p>Fergus says after spending time, energy and money on the new site, the state wanted parents to use it. That&rsquo;s why the old interactive site was taken down.</p><p>But Fergus acknowledged the state has heard grumbling.</p><p>&ldquo;In the last week or so we&rsquo;ve heard from school staff that said they wanted access to that material, so we&rsquo;re going to get it back on the site within the week,&rdquo; Fergus said Thursday.</p><p>Fergus said the state has received &ldquo;overwhelmingly positive comments&rdquo; from people about the new report card, which also includes a two-page &ldquo;at a glance&rdquo; summary of a school&rsquo;s performance and environment that can be printed out. &ldquo;It is just a matter of due diligence and prioritizing the data we want up there. There&rsquo;s a lot of new great data on this new report card site. Sure, there&rsquo;s a couple minor glitches, but we are definitely on the road to a much more understandable report card that everyone can use&mdash;and really the end result will be how people use this data to improve their local schools.&rdquo;</p><p>Staff at Northern Illinois University confirm there is significantly less data available on the new web site. They say the intent was to add data and capabilities going forward.</p><p>But meanwhile, Fergus says the state will revive the Illinois Interactive Report Card next week&mdash;which will now be called &ldquo;Classic&rdquo; Illinois Interactive Report Card. The state will add a link to it from the new report card site. Fergus says there will be no extra cost to run the two sites.</p><p>For some, there&rsquo;s a bigger philosophical question at play here, about whether the state is trying to guide the public to a particular conclusion about its schools.&nbsp; One parent complained on Twitter that the new site doesn&rsquo;t give what used to be basic information about a high school&#39;s performance: average ACT scores. (If you&rsquo;re wondering why not, it&rsquo;s because <a href="http://illinoisreportcard.com/State.aspx?source=Trends&amp;source2=ReadyforCollegeCourseWork&amp;Stateid=IL" target="_blank">the state wants you to think differently about ACT scores these days</a>. The new site only reports how many kids at each school earned a score of 21 or better on the exam.)</p><p>The state says it still publishes average ACT scores on a <a href="http://webprod.isbe.net/ereportcard/publicsite/getsearchcriteria.aspx" target="_blank">separate site</a>.</p><p>Robin Steans, executive director of Advance Illinois and one of the biggest proponents of a new report card, says she always understood the report card would be adding information, not replacing data. She says the state&rsquo;s goal in presenting school data should be to strike a balance.</p><p>&ldquo;You certainly want the ability to navigate, use and compare information based on your own interests and research objectives,&rdquo; says Steans. &ldquo;I think there is also value in presenting information that is more likely to be immediately meaningful to people who don&rsquo;t have a lot of experience interacting with what can be very overwhelming and very confusing and very arcane information.&rdquo;</p><p>The paper version of school report cards had grown in some cases to more than 20 pages of mostly test score data.</p><p>Chicago parent Marc Sims says he will welcome the return of the &ldquo;classic&rdquo; interactive report card site next week, which he&rsquo;d become accustomed to using. Sims still lives in the South Side home where he grew up and tries to follow the progress of his neighborhood grammar school. He says if the data is laid out in an understandable way, there&rsquo;s no reason parents can&rsquo;t look at lots of it. &ldquo;I want to know how the school is doing this year&mdash;compared to last year, compared to five years, compared to 10 years ago. If you&rsquo;ve got 30 years, go right ahead! Give me 30 years of graphs if you can lay it out nicely to see how the school has done.&rdquo;</p></p> Sat, 09 Nov 2013 09:49:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/new-illinois-school-report-cards-mean-less-data-109118 Clergy who support same-sex marriage in Illinois might not perform ceremonies http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-11/clergy-who-support-same-sex-marriage-illinois-might-not-perform <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/RS7323_DOMARallySmall%20%2818%20of%2024%29-scr.jpg" style="float: left; height: 267px; width: 400px;" title="Illinois clergy rally for marriage equality (WBEZ/Shawn Allee)" />Clergy of different faiths support same-sex marriage in Illinois.</p><p>In fact, over 300 <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/media/acrobat/2012-12/158835580-23185637.pdf">signed a letter</a> asking members of the Illinois House to support The Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.</p><p>And the House did, this week, by a vote of 61-54.</p><p>Of course, supporting the Act doesn&rsquo;t mean clergy have to conduct same-sex wedding ceremonies.</p><p>The bill passed this week does not require any <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/otherviews/23072883-452/gay-marriage-bill-preserves-religious-freedom.html">religious organization or leader to</a> &ldquo;accommodate&rdquo; same sex marriages.</p><p>But state law doesn&rsquo;t mean much when it comes to church law.</p><p><a href="http://www.episcopalarchives.org/Afro-Anglican_history/exhibit/leadership/tolliver.php">Reverend Doctor Richard L. Tolliver</a> is Rector at St. Edmund&rsquo;s Episcopal Church in Washington Park.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re given authority from a secular point of view,&rdquo; said Reverend Tolliver. &ldquo;But from a religious dimension we are not.&rdquo;<br /><br />Instead Reverend Tolliver and his Episcopal peers are permitted, as of 2012,&nbsp; to &ldquo;witness a same-sex marriage and perform a rite of blessing.&rdquo;</p><p>The Reverend says that includes everything but the &ldquo;contractual parts,&rdquo; the &ldquo;do you takes&rdquo; and the &ldquo; I now pronounce you&hellip;.&rdquo;</p><p>For many, that&rsquo;s kind of the meat on the bone of a marriage ceremony. But Illinois Episcopalians will continue to follow their Book of Common Prayer, which still defines marriage as a rite between a man and a woman. Revered Tolliver says that situation is unlikely to change until 2015, when members hold their next general convention.</p><p>While the Episcopal Church has taken a one-size-fits-all approach, Larry Greenfield, the Executive Minister of the <a href="http://www.abcmc.org/contents/regionalStaff/regionalStaff.html">American Baptist Churches of Metro Chicago</a>, says his organization leaves it up to individual churches.</p><p>&ldquo;I can advise, counsel, urge, even come close to twisting their arms,&rdquo; said Greenfield. &ldquo;But in the end, it&rsquo;s that local congregation&rsquo;s decision.&rdquo;</p><p>There are 64 churches in the ABCMC and Greenfield says they run the gamut, from &ldquo;highly supportive to fervently against, and then everything in the middle.&rdquo;</p><p>To Greenfield, that mix reflects both the mission of his church and democratic principles.</p><p>&ldquo;The imposition of state or religion on the freedom of a congregation to make that decision would be a violation of our position about the nature of Christian faith,&rdquo; said Greenfield.</p><p>If he were asked to perform a same-sex marriage, Greenfield says he would, &ldquo;absolutely.&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;I am member of a faith community that believes love is the supreme reality and responsibility of all human beings,&rdquo; says Greenfield. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d welcome the opportunity to bless that union.&rdquo;</p><p>The decision is a little more complex for <a href="http://www.wpmbc.org/senior-pastor/">Reverend Dr. L. Bernard Jakes</a>, senior pastor of West Point Baptist Church in Chicago&rsquo;s Bronzeville neighborhood.</p><p>He came out in support of gay marriage in 2011, a decision he says wasn&rsquo;t at all difficult.&nbsp; But he won&rsquo;t perform a same-sex ceremony in his church sanctuary anytime soon.</p><p>&ldquo;The church would have to come together as a body and say how they feel about it, how comfortable they are,&rdquo; said Reverend Jakes. &ldquo;Because it&rsquo;s not a dictatorship. I really do engage them in the process.&rdquo;</p><p>The Reverend says he hopes they come to terms through conversation. Right now though, he&rsquo;s more focused on keeping his flock together.</p><p>&ldquo;Character assassination is going to happen,&rdquo; said Reverend Jakes. &ldquo;We are to continue to pray for one another, because we will be bastardized and demonized based upon what we believe.&rdquo;</p><p><em><a href=" http://www.wbez.org/users/acuddy-0" rel="author"> Alison Cuddy </a> is the Arts and Culture reporter at WBEZ. You can follow her on <a href=" https://twitter.com/wbezacuddy"> Twitter </a>, <a href=" https://www.facebook.com/cuddyalison"> Facebook </a> and <a href=" http://instagram.com/cuddyreport"> Instagram </a></em></p></p> Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:06:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/alison-cuddy/2013-11/clergy-who-support-same-sex-marriage-illinois-might-not-perform