WBEZ | Politics http://www.wbez.org/news/politics Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Indiana Gov. Pence signs religious objections bill http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/mikepence.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>INDIANAPOLIS &mdash; Indiana Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday signed into law a religious objections bill that some convention organizers and business leaders have opposed amid concern it could allow discrimination against gay people.</p><p>Indiana is the first state to enact such a change this year among about a dozen where such proposals have been introduced. The measure would prohibit state and local laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; the ability of people &mdash; including businesses and associations &mdash; to follow their religious beliefs.</p><p>Pence, a Republican, backed the bill as it moved through the Legislature and spoke at a Statehouse rally last month that drew hundreds of supporters of the proposal. The governor signed the bill in a private ceremony.</p><p>Pence said in a statement Thursday that the bill ensures &quot;religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law.&quot;</p><p>&quot;The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion, but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action,&quot; he said.</p><p>In a letter to Pence sent Wednesday, leaders of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) warned that the legislation was causing them to reconsider plans to hold their 6,000-person General Assembly in Indianapolis in 2017. The CEO of a gathering of gamers considered to be the city&#39;s largest annual convention also expressed concern about the bill, which the state Senate passed Tuesday.</p><p>The bill signing comes just more than a week before NCAA men&#39;s Final Four games at Lucas Oil Stadium in downtown Indianapolis, but the college sports organization hasn&#39;t taken a position on the issue.</p><p>&quot;We are examining the details of this bill, however, the NCAA national office is committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events,&quot; the Indianapolis-based group said in a statement.</p><blockquote><p><strong>WBEZ reporter Mike Puente discusses reaction to the law on the Morning Shift</strong></p></blockquote><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="100" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/197816089&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>Supporters say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after a federal religious freedom law Congress passed in 1993 and similar laws are on the books in 19 states. However, the current political climate is far different than it was when most of those were approved because the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on whether gay marriage bans violate the Constitution.</p><p>Conservative groups say the Indiana measure merely seeks to prevent the government from compelling people to provide such things as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.</p><p>&quot;I think you will find that, if you do your homework in it, this law is not going to allow you to discriminate against anyone else or anyone&#39;s rights in this country,&quot; GOP Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long said.</p><p>But the Republican mayor of Indianapolis said he believed the proposal would send the &quot;wrong signal&quot; for the city, and its tourism and convention agency raised concerns that it could lead some convention planners to regard Indiana as an unwelcoming place.</p><p>The Indianapolis chamber of commerce and Columbus-based engine maker Cummins Inc. are among business groups which have opposed the bill on the grounds that it could make it more difficult to attract top companies and employees.</p><p>Adrian Swartout, the CEO of the 50,000-person Gen Con gamers&#39; convention, said the legislation could affect the group&#39;s decision to hold the major event in Indianapolis past 2020. He said it would have &quot;a direct negative impact on the state&#39;s economy.&quot;</p><p>Similar bills have been advancing this year in the Arkansas and Georgia legislatures. Last year, Mississippi enacted a religious objection law just weeks after Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a similar effort there amid criticism from major corporations.</p><p>Pence denied that the bill will allow discrimination.</p><p>&quot;This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it,&quot; he said. &quot;For more than 20 years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation&#39;s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.&quot;</p></p> Thu, 26 Mar 2015 10:57:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/religion/indiana-gov-pence-signs-religious-objections-bill-111772 Unions and Garcia push for $15-an-hour minimum wage http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-and-garcia-push-15-hour-minimum-wage-111768 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/chuy15.PNG" alt="" /><p><p dir="ltr">Mayoral candidate Jesus &quot;Chuy&quot; Garcia and the Chicago Teachers Union are pushing for a $15 per hour minimum wage.</p><p dir="ltr">Garcia, members of the CTU, and activists with the national movement &ldquo;Fight for 15&rdquo; rallied outside the Chicago Board of Education Wednesday. They want all companies who do business with Chicago Public Schools to agree to a wage increase.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Parents who cannot get regular hours at their job, who cannot make a living wage, have a difficult time providing their children, who are our students, with the kind of environment necessary for real learning,&rdquo; said CTU Vice President Jesse Sharkey.</p><p dir="ltr">All CTU-represented employees and most others at CPS are already above the minimum wage, but Sharkey said subcontracted employees, like Safe Passage workers and recess monitors, are not.</p><p dir="ltr">Mayor Rahm Emanuel has already <a href="http://www.wbez.org/mayor-emanuel-backs-chicago-minimum-wage-hike-13-110462">promised to increase the minimum wage</a> to $13 an hour by 2018. The wage hike applies to all companies who do business with the city and its sister agencies, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/cps-chief-backs-mayors-13-hour-minimum-wage-111138">including CPS</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Garcia said he&rsquo;d find the money for a wage hike by closing tax loopholes for wealthy corporations and rerouting money given to &ldquo;cronies of the mayor.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;If there&rsquo;s enough money to make them happy, there ought to be enough money to pay for frontline workers within Chicago Public Schools,&rdquo; Garcia said. &nbsp;</p><p dir="ltr">School janitors also rallied outside the Board Wednesday to argue against the layoffs that took place after <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/custodial-contract-causing-problems-start-school-year-110767">CPS outsourced custodial management</a> to Aramark and SodexoMAGIC.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;Since Aramark has taken over, I currently have to clean 72,000 square feet of hallway,&rdquo; said Ina Davis, a janitor at University of Chicago - Donoghue Charter School. &nbsp;&ldquo;I have 17 classrooms, 23 bathrooms and I&rsquo;m the only janitor that has to clean this at night. I&rsquo;m just asking for CPS to help us.&rdquo;</p><p dir="ltr">Last week, principals asked CPS to <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/principals-cps-end-custodial-contract-now-111735">end the contracts</a> with Aramark and SodexoMAGIC, saying the schools were still dirty. District officials say after hiccups early in the year, a recent audit of school cleanliness showed most schools are cleaner.</p><p dir="ltr">Tom Balanoff, president of the Service Employees International United - Local 1, said even though Aramark <a href="http://www.wbez.org/news/aramark-cps-change-plan-cut-school-janitors-110870">compromised by not following through</a> with about half of the planned layoffs, the company still made more than 200 janitors part-time, which is a problem.</p><p dir="ltr">&ldquo;There&rsquo;s just not enough hours in the day for the janitors to do all the work,&rdquo; Balanoff said.</p><p dir="ltr"><em>Becky Vevea is an education reporter for WBEZ. Follow her <a href="http://twitter.com/WBEZeducation">@WBEZeducation</a>.</em></p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 17:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/unions-and-garcia-push-15-hour-minimum-wage-111768 More than 21K early votes cast in Chicago runoff election http://www.wbez.org/news/more-21k-early-votes-cast-chicago-runoff-election-111766 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/earlyvoting_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>More than 21,000 people have taken advantage of early voting in Chicago over the first two days.</p><p>A spokesman with the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners says 7,914 early voting ballots were cast Monday, and nearly 13,100 were cast Tuesday. He says that data brings the board&#39;s unofficial two-day total to 21,012 votes.</p><p>The board says it&#39;s the largest number of ballots cast during the first two days of early voting for any municipal election in Chicago.</p><p>The first municipal election to offer early voting in February 2007 drew more than 1,440 votes in the first two days. Early voting for the February 2011 election saw over 8,550 votes in the first two days.</p><p>Almost 11,640 votes were cast in the first two days of early voting ahead of the February 2015 election.</p></p> Wed, 25 Mar 2015 08:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/more-21k-early-votes-cast-chicago-runoff-election-111766 With GOP votes, Indiana House approves religious objection bill http://www.wbez.org/news/gop-votes-indiana-house-approves-religious-objection-bill-111758 <p><p>INDIANAPOLIS &mdash; The Indiana House approved by a wide margin Monday a proposal strengthening protections for religious objections in state law that opponents say could provide legal cover for discrimination against gay people.</p><p>Republicans cast all the &quot;yes&quot; votes as House members voted 63-31 to support the bill that would prohibit any state laws that &quot;substantially burden&quot; a person&#39;s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs and has a definition of a &quot;person&quot; that includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.</p><p>Groups supporting the measure say it would prevent the government from compelling people to provide services such as catering or photography for same-sex weddings or other activities they find objectionable.</p><p>House Majority Leader Jud McMillin, R-Brookville, said the bill would give courts guidance on how to decide cases involving competing constitutional rights pertaining to religious freedom and discrimination.</p><p>&quot;No one in this General Assembly is advocating a bill that would allow people to discriminate,&quot; he said. &quot;Everybody wants the opportunity for people to practice the rights they&#39;re supposed to have in this country.&quot;</p><p>National gay-rights consider the Indiana bill among the most sweeping of several similar proposals introduced this year in more than a dozen states as conservatives brace for a possible U.S. Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.</p><p>&quot;What these politicians are peddling as &#39;religious liberty&#39; is not real religious liberty,&quot; said Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force Action Fund. &quot;This law is an outright recipe for discrimination and persecution.&quot;</p><p>Five Republican House members joined Democrats in voting against the proposal. The Senate approved a similar version last month in a 40-10 party-line vote. Once agreement on a version is reached, the bill would go to Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who supports the proposal.</p><p>&quot;It is a restraint on what government can do,&quot; Pence said last week. &quot;It essentially gives courts guidance going forward.&quot;</p><p>Scott Spychala, an Air Force veteran from Indianapolis, wore a sticker opposing the bill on his military fatigues as he sat in the House gallery for the debate.</p><p>&quot;I just think there&#39;s going to be opportunities down the road where people can use their religion to discriminate,&quot; he said after the vote. &quot;It&#39;s taking us back in history.&quot;</p><p>Sponsors of the bill say it is closely modeled on a federal religious freedom law passed in 1993 and that 19 other states already have similar laws.</p><p>Gay marriage opponents in Indiana were angered last year when the Legislature failed to advance a proposed state constitutional ban on same-sex marriages. Federal courts later legalized same-sex marriage in the state.</p><p>Democratic Rep. Matt Pierce of Bloomington said the proposal wasn&#39;t needed to protect religious liberties in that state and was nothing but a &quot;consolation prize&quot; for those against legalizing gay marriages.</p><p>Other Democrats said the bill could be used to challenge local civil rights ordinances that go further than state law to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination or challenge state regulations on church day cares.</p><p>&quot;We&#39;re going to cost our state a lot of money,&quot; said Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond. &quot;We are meddling with the lives of people that we have no business meddling with.&quot;</p><p>Rallies in support of and against the bill have drawn hundreds of people to the Statehouse in recent weeks, and Christian and Jewish clergy members have testified on each side.</p><p>About a dozen people against the bill were on hand Monday as members of Freedom Indiana, which campaigned against the state gay marriage ban last year, delivered what it said were nearly 10,000 petitions opposing the measure to the office of Republican House Speaker Brian Bosma.</p><p>Republican Rep. Bruce Borders of Jasonville said he believed the bill would protect people trying to live out their religious faith beyond church.</p><p>&quot;I can see very easily where someone with their business is asked to do something that according what they&#39;ve read in God&#39;s word they simply cannot do it in good conscience,&quot; Borders said.</p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 09:13:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/gop-votes-indiana-house-approves-religious-objection-bill-111758 Legislature to consider Madigan plan to fill state budget gap http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-consider-madigan-plan-fill-state-budget-gap-111757 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/madigan_sots.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; Lawmakers are scheduled to consider a new plan introduced by House Speaker Michael Madigan to end weeks of negotiations over plugging a $1.6 billion gap in this year&#39;s state budget.</p><p>The Legislature faces a fast-approaching deadline to act as money runs out for subsidized childcare programs, prisons and court reporters.</p><p>The Chicago Democrat introduced the plan late Monday. It would authorize Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to transfer $1.3 billion from other purposes, including parks and conservation. The rest would come from a 2.25 percent across-the-board budget cut.</p><p>Rauner has said for weeks that lawmakers were close to agreeing on a solution.</p><p>Senate Democrats advanced their own plan earlier this month, but it has so far failed to clear the chamber.</p><p>Madigan&#39;s plan will be presented in committee hearings Tuesday morning.</p></p> Tue, 24 Mar 2015 08:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/legislature-consider-madigan-plan-fill-state-budget-gap-111757 Where can a politician wield more influence? Chicago's City Council vs. Illinois' Statehouse http://www.wbez.org/news/where-can-politician-wield-more-influence-chicagos-city-council-vs-illinois-statehouse-111754 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/6753527391_fa007cb235_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In politics, local government, like city wards, can be seen as the &ldquo;minor leagues.&rdquo; This is where candidates are scouted and get recruited to run for higher office.</p><p>But time and again, state legislators from Chicago do the opposite. They leave behind jobs in the Statehouse to serve on the City Council.</p><p>So that begs the question: What&rsquo;s more important? Making sure potholes are filled, garbage is picked up on time and what the neighborhood watch group is up to?</p><p>Or is it more important to make rules about carrying weapons, the legality of shark fin soup and how much income is going toward taxes?</p><p>Tony Arnold and Amanda Vinicky went on a quest to figure out where an Illinois politician has the most influence.</p><p><em>Tony Arnold covers Illinois politics (from Chicago) for WBEZ. Follow him <a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold" target="_blank">@tonyjarnold</a>. Amanda Vinicky covers Illinois politics (from Springfield) for Illinois Public Radio. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/amandavinicky">@amandavinicky</a>.</em></p></p> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 16:16:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/where-can-politician-wield-more-influence-chicagos-city-council-vs-illinois-statehouse-111754 Under Emanuel, more unsolved murders, fewer detectives http://www.wbez.org/news/under-emanuel-more-unsolved-murders-fewer-detectives-111750 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/rahmmccarthy_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>▲ <strong>Listen to the full story</strong></p><p>In his reelection campaign, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is taking credit for a <a href="http://interactive.wbez.org/gradingrahm/#public_safety">slight decline in the city&rsquo;s homicide rate</a>. But a WBEZ investigation raises a question about the murders that are still happening: Is the city doing enough to put the killers behind bars?</p><p>Emanuel has allowed detective ranks to decline during his term even as internal police records show some of the lowest murder clearance rates in decades. Our story (listen above) explores those rates through the eyes of city detectives and a mother who lost her 18-year-old daughter in an unsolved case last October.</p><p>A few notes about the data (charted below): Regarding the detectives, the number on the payroll is down by about 19 percent since Emanuel took office, according to records obtained by WBEZ under the state Freedom of Information Act. The ranks of evidence technicians and forensic investigators have thinned by even larger proportions.</p><p>Detectives say the drops owe to regular attrition such as retirements and promotions. A police spokesman says the city is planning to add 150 new detectives this year. But they won&rsquo;t make up for the attrition during the mayor&rsquo;s term.</p><p>About the murder clearances, the department calculates the rate two ways. The simple way accounts only for cases closed in the same calendar year in which the murder took place. By that gauge, the police cleared 28.7 percent of last year&rsquo;s murders. The other calculation &mdash; the one preferred by the city &mdash; includes clearances of murders committed in previous years, leading to a 2014 rate of 51.8 percent. By either measure, the city&rsquo;s clearance rate is near its lowest level in decades. Chicago&rsquo;s also doing poorly compared to other big cities, according to <a href="http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/tables/table-25/table_25_percent_of-offenses_cleared_by_arrest_by_population_group_2013.xls">FBI clearance figures for 2013</a>, the most recent year available.</p><p>Zooming in further, the term &ldquo;cleared&rdquo; means <em>closed</em> but not necessarily <em>solved</em>. In some cleared cases, the killer was not charged or even arrested. During Emanuel&rsquo;s term, roughly a quarter of the murder cases the police have closed were &ldquo;exceptional clearances&rdquo; because, for example, the suspect had died or fled the country or because prosecutors had declined to bring charges for various reasons, including a refusal by witnesses to testify. Last year, 42 of 213 clearances were &ldquo;exceptional.&rdquo;</p><div id="responsive-embed-clearance-absolute">&nbsp;</div><script src="http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/clearance-absolute/js/lib/pym.js" type="text/javascript"></script><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-clearance-absolute', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/clearance-absolute/child.html', {} ); }); </script><div id="responsive-embed-clearance-rate">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-clearance-rate', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/clearance-rate/child.html', {} ); }); </script><div id="responsive-embed-investigators-line">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-investigators-line', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/investigators-line/child.html', {} ); }); </script><div id="responsive-embed-investigators-table">&nbsp;</div><script type="text/javascript"> jQuery(document).ready(function(){ var pymParent = new pym.Parent( 'responsive-embed-investigators-table', 'http://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-dailygraphics/dailygraphics/graphics/investigators-table/child.html', {} ); }); </script></p> Mon, 23 Mar 2015 08:17:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/under-emanuel-more-unsolved-murders-fewer-detectives-111750 Forget basketball: Chicago politics is the real March Madness http://www.wbez.org/news/forget-basketball-chicago-politics-real-march-madness-111748 <p><p dir="ltr"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Screen%20Shot%202015-03-21%20at%207.34.39%20AM.png" style="float: right; height: 462px; width: 350px;" title="Some of Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s City Hall allies piled audit documents on two dollies as part of a campaign stunt this week. (WBEZ/Lauren Chooljian)" />March Madness is a title usually reserved for basketball brackets.</p><p dir="ltr">But in this town, it could easily be applied to Chicago&rsquo;s mayoral election.</p><p dir="ltr">Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County Commissioner Jesus &ldquo;Chuy&rdquo; Garcia are in a sprint toward the runoff&nbsp;April 7.</p><p>Just this week, voters got their first chance to see Emanuel and Garcia go one on one in a live televised <a href="http://www.nbcchicago.com/blogs/ward-room/296573281.html">debate</a>, and Garcia aired his first <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hkt41HbqmIE">commercial</a>&nbsp;since the runoff started.</p><p><a href="https://twitter.com/tonyjarnold">WBEZ&rsquo;s Tony Arnold</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/laurenchooljian">Lauren Chooljian</a> joined host Greta Johnsen to talk about politically unpalatable property taxes that made headlines all week, and to explain what a 2-wheeled dolly full of binders has to do with the mayor&rsquo;s race.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Sat, 21 Mar 2015 07:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/forget-basketball-chicago-politics-real-march-madness-111748 Former detainees file lawsuit over Homan Square police practices http://www.wbez.org/news/former-detainees-file-lawsuit-over-homan-square-police-practices-111745 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/homan square.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>John Vergara said in 2011 masked police suddenly rushed the Humboldt Park restaurant where he&rsquo;d stopped in for coffee. He and a few other men were cuffed and taken to Homan Square on the city&rsquo;s West Side.</p><p>&ldquo;They insisted we knew something, but they just kept us there for hours, chained to the wall, to each other and to the wall. I still don&rsquo;t even know what I was there for,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>At the time, Vergara didn&rsquo;t know the other men with him in custody. He said police refused requests for legal counsel, bathroom facilities and food. He said the cops tried to coerce the men into false confession.</p><p>Eventually, one man in the group was officially arrested. Vergara said the situation changed when he mentioned attorney Blake Horwitz.</p><p>&ldquo;The whole demeanor of the police officers started to change. They started being a little more polite, and a little more scared about knowing that I knew Blake,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Vergara said he and the other men were eventually able to leave, but not before the police threatened them if they didn&rsquo;t keep quiet.</p><p>Vergara and two other men, Carlos Ruiz and Jose Garcia, came forward after a recent article in the <em><a href="http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2015/feb/24/chicago-police-detain-americans-black-site">The Guardian</a></em> questioning police actions at Homan Square. On behalf of these men, attorney Blake Horwitz filed a lawsuit against four police officers and the City of Chicago.</p><p>Horwitz said these practices could happen anywhere, but said there&rsquo;s something particular about Homan Square, where people are taken off the grid.</p><p>&ldquo;There&rsquo;s a pattern that people experience where they&rsquo;re there for long periods of time and they&rsquo;re not given a right to an attorney,&rdquo; he said.</p><p>Horwitz said it&rsquo;s not a matter of shutting down the facility, but that police practices need to change.</p><p>A statement from the Chicago Police Department said it abides by all laws and guidelines related to interviews of suspects and witnesses at Homan Square and any other CPD facility.</p><p>The city&rsquo;s law department said it&rsquo;s reviewing the lawsuit and intends to &ldquo;vigorously defend against it.&rdquo;</p><p>The department notes police recovered 180 grams of cocaine, along with cash, during the incident. It said the case should be dismissed on legal grounds.</p><p><em>Susie An is a WBEZ reporter. Follow her <a href="https://twitter.com/soosieon">@soosieon</a>.</em></p></p> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 16:39:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-detainees-file-lawsuit-over-homan-square-police-practices-111745 Former charter schools CEO earning $250K as Rauner's adviser http://www.wbez.org/news/former-charter-schools-ceo-earning-250k-rauners-adviser-111741 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/raunersots02042015_0.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>SPRINGFIELD, Ill. &mdash; A former Chicago charter schools executive is earning $250,000 a year to spearhead Gov. Bruce Rauner&#39;s top education initiatives, a salary that is more than double what her predecessors received and places her as the highest-paid member of a Cabinet already under scrutiny for its lofty paychecks.</p><p>For weeks, Beth Purvis&#39; role in the administration had been somewhat of a mystery. There was no formal announcement when she was hired, and during a House education committee meeting earlier this month, she stood and introduced herself when someone on the panel asked if anyone from the governor&#39;s office was in attendance.</p><p>Not until after several inquiries from The Associated Press did the Rauner administration disclose that Purvis &mdash; a key member of the governor&#39;s transition team &mdash; is now earning $250,000 a year to advise him on education policy. Purvis is being paid as an independent contractor and accepting neither state health nor retirement benefits, according to the governor&#39;s office.</p><p>From 2003 until last year, Purvis, who holds a doctorate in special education, served as CEO of the Chicago International Charter School, a network of 15 schools in Chicago and Rockford. She previously worked as a special education teacher in Maryland and Tennessee, as a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago and served on education advisory councils under the last two Illinois governors.</p><p>In an interview with the AP, Purvis said her salary is &quot;commensurate with what I&#39;ve been paid in the past&quot; and cited her three decades of experience. Rauner spokeswoman Catherine Kelly called Purvis &quot;one of the few education experts in the country prepared to lead a true cradle to career approach to education.&quot;</p><p>But some Democratic lawmakers questioned whether the pay was appropriate for an employee of the state.</p><p>&quot;We want the most talented people to take a turn serving in government,&quot; said Sen. Don Harmon of Oak Park. &quot;But most all of us in public service are paid considerably less than if we used our talents in private enterprise. That sort of sacrifice is typically part of the public service deal.&quot;</p><p>The choice of Purvis also makes a statement about Rauner&#39;s priorities early in his tenure &mdash; a focus on lifting the state&#39;s cap on the number of charter schools allowed in the state. And Rauner last month proposed a budget that included a $300 million increase to K-12 school funding next year while calling for cuts elsewhere, including a roughly $400 million decrease in funding to higher education to offset the bump.</p><p>Rauner already has come under fire for paying top members of his administration significantly more than their predecessors but criticizing the average state worker as overpaid. He&#39;s spent the first months of his tenure calling for &quot;shared sacrifice&quot; and issuing an executive order halting nonessential spending.</p><p>A review by The Associated Press earlier this year found annual salaries of 10 top employees in his administration far exceed those of comparable aides to former Gov. Pat Quinn by roughly $380,000 &mdash; or 36 percent.</p><p>Previous governors have hired point people on education, but they&#39;ve largely also had other duties at the same time, state records show. Kristin Richards, who served as former Gov. Rod Blagojevich&#39;s point person on education, was paid $120,000 in 2008 to oversee education and the state&#39;s Department of Transportation. Gov. Pat Quinn&#39;s education adviser, Julie Smith, earned $110,000 annually between 2011 and 2014, state records show.</p><p>While Purvis&#39; salary is high for a Cabinet secretary, it&#39;s in line with what local school administrators often earn. State records show that the average administrator&#39;s salary at the state&#39;s 860 districts made $101,096 last year, but are as high as $357,117, the annual salary of Marquardt District 15 superintendent Loren May. According to an analysis by the AP, 65 school superintendents&#39; salaries were higher than $250,000 last year.</p><p>While her predecessors have interacted with lawmakers and state education officials, Purvis says she envisions having even more of a public presence.</p><p>&quot;I&#39;ve been charged by the governor to create a more cohesive and coherent educational experience,&quot; she said, adding that there are at least seven agencies in the state that deal with children and their educational trajectory.</p><p>&quot;That&#39;s really confusing for parents. In fact, it&#39;s really confusing for me,&quot; she said.</p><p>Robin Steans, director of the education reform group Advance Illinois, called Purvis &quot;no nonsense&quot; and somebody who can successfully &quot;block and tackle&quot; for the administration.</p></p> Fri, 20 Mar 2015 10:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/former-charter-schools-ceo-earning-250k-rauners-adviser-111741