SPRINGFIELD — School funding inequities, long a struggle between have and have-not districts, will return full bore to the Illinois legislature early in 2015.
A new version of Senate Bill 16, which advanced with much input before being sent to the House where it was left to die in the final session of the year, will be filed again soon in both the House and Senate, Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill, told the Illinois Business Journal. He’s hopeful of getting a measure passed that would address funding formulas before the start of the next fiscal year in July 2015. An estimated $6.7 billion in state aid is at stake.
“We had a year’s worth of work in the Senate before we took a vote on May 27, right before the spring session adjourned. We had hearings and meetings and issued a report. We put the Senate bill through the amendments process. The House didn’t have time to take it up, which we expected anyway.”
By the time of the veto session in November a competing bill had been drafted in the House, opposing the passage of Senate Bill 16. As a result, neither measure advanced.
Manar said a lot of good, constructive criticism has been received and is being factored into the new bill. Among those who have weighed in are principals, educators, teachers, superintendents and legislators from both parties.
Unchanged since 1997, the current education funding system only distributes 44 cents for every $1 invested in education on the basis of district need.
Senate Bill 16 would have changed the funding formula to require the state to make 92 percent of public school funding need based.
The state contributes about 25 percent of the total dollars that support its schools, compared to up to 50 percent in other states, placing a large strain on local districts, Manar said.
“It’s become a daily conversation. There is not a day goes by that I don’t have a conversation with someone in the state about the need to change the current system and about how that change could come about,” he said.
He said he asked for criticism of the bill on April 2, the day the bill was introduced in its entirety.
“We didn’t introduce it at the last minute. I was hoping that we would receive constructive criticism, and that it would produce a statewide conversation for the first time in 17 years — since Jim Edgar was governor. We have forced this conversation onto the legislature in a constructive way. It’s a tough one. How do we change what is without a doubt a broken system?”
The politics of the process are changing in the next General Assembly, starting with this month’s inauguration of Bruce Rauner, the Republican who wrestled the governor’s seat from Pat Quinn. Manar said he’s had brief conversation with the governor-elect and believes that Rauner recognizes the plight. But Rauner also campaigned on reining in Illinois’ spending ways.
Rauner has said he would re-prioritized tax dollars so they would go less toward administration and bureaucracy and more toward teachers and classroom technology. He was critical of Quinn for signing budget bills that cut education spending.
Money will be the ultimate challenge, Manar agreed.
“Obviously the state’s finances don’t put us in a position to have funds available to mitigate any of the negative changes that a district might feel because of the bill,” he said. At one time, if a district was losing money because of a change in the state aid formula, there was extra money appropriated to hold a district harmless or keep its losses at a minimum.
“Now, we don’t have that luxury,” Manar said.
The next version of Senate Bill 16 will contain a few modifications that came out of the House during veto session.
“We would have a regional adjustment of state aid to account for the fact that it costs more to hire a teacher in a place like Downers Grove than it does in a place like Mulberry Grove,” Manar said. “Other states have adopted this and it’s proven successful. Personnel costs run 70 percent to 80 percent of a school district’s budget and we should recognize that in our state aid formula.”
As SIUE program enters second decade, wide-ranging specializations in works
EDWARDSVILLE — In the 10 years that it has been producing pharmacists, the SIUE School of Pharmacy has held closely to one ideal — that filling health needs is a mission.
In 2015, the school hopes to continue its prescription for success by pursuing a diversity of programs tailored to specialties that go well beyond the neighborhood drugstore.
“There are at least 25 areas you can specialize in,” said Gireesh V. Gupchup, professor and dean of the school.
Approximately 80 graduates a year earn a doctor of pharmacy degree, and each of them, he said, is prepared to further their education in a field of specialty, through outside residencies that work cooperatively with SIUE.
As the school here enters its second decade it is focused on serving an industry that has much different needs than it did just a few years ago. Today, specialization is the watchword.
The impetus for the school was David Werner, the chancellor from 1998 to 2004.
“At that time there was a real shortage of pharmacists in the country,” said Gupchup.
The Aggregate Demand Index, used by the Pharmacy Workforce Center to study pharmacy needs by state, showed Illinois was among the most in need.
“The (index) rate goes from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest. Illinois had one of the highest demand indices in the country, at that point in time. That’s when the planning started,” Gupchup said.
When it was launched in 2005, SIUE’s School of Pharmacy became the first such Illinois school outside of Chicago. The only other nearby school is the St. Louis College of Pharmacy and the next closest is Kansas City. Those factors remain in play today, although a number of other pharmacy colleges have been created elsewhere in the nation.
The founding dean of the school, Dr. Philip Medon, was hired in 2004.
“I had known Phil for several years. I was in New Mexico at the New Mexico Health Science Center as part of the faculty,” Gupchup said. Medon lured Gupchup to the SIUE campus to become associate dean, and Gupchup inherited Medon’s mantle of leadership six years later, 2010, when Medon moved on to Manchester University College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Today, the SIUE program is spread across five buildings in University Park. As of this year, it has graduated five cohorts, which are clusters of students progressing through classes together. Members get a doctor of pharmacy degree, also called a Pharm.D. About 80 students a year are admitted.
“We can’t go more than that for several reasons,” Gupchup said. “One is space. Another is that 33 percent of our curriculum is experiential in nature (where students go out into the field to observe and work under the supervision of a pharmacist). It’s like any health-care field. You don’t want a dentist to learn how to pull a tooth on line. You don’t want a pharmacist, especially with all the areas of specialty, to learn things just in theory.”
EDWARDSVILLE — A lawyer is moving forward on plans to build a fivestory building that could become one of the tallest in the city.
The terrain on the southwest corner of East Park and South Buchanan streets will appear vastly different in coming months with planned demolition of the former McClean Auto Repair as well as two neighboring houses.
The redevelopment project, called the Park Street Plaza LLC, has been proposed by Chris Byron, managing partner at the Edwardsville firm of Byron, Carlson, Petri and Kalb.
Several moves are being contemplated in the neighborhood as the developer seeks to build the 40,000-square-foot structure and enough parking space for what could be up to 50 to 90 people to occupy the building.
Although no tenants have been announced, the first floor will be made up of retail and restaurant space, with the other four floors being office space.
An authorizing resolution regarding use of TIF funds was approved in November on a 5-2 vote of the City Council. The site is just within Tax Increment Financing District 2, which covers the downtown core. As part of the agreement, the developer has requested $250,000 in TIF funds, City Administrator Tim Harr said.
Of the $250,000 being requested, $100,000 is being used to pay a deductible for the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency for remediation and cleanup of the site. Another $125,000 will go toward house and building demolition. Another $25,000 is also going for the construction of new sidewalks and streetscape.
Total cost of the project is approximately $9.6 million.
Although the project will still have to go through the building permit phase, including submission of plans, it is on track to be completed by the end of 2015, Byron said earlier.
Speculation has centered on whether Madison Mutual Insurance Co. would become a tenant. Byron did not return a call seeking comment, but Harr said he talked to Madison Mutual about the speculation and was told nothing had been decided.
A representative of the insurance company told the Illinois Business Journal that the company’s current headquarters location and surrounding
24 acres are officially for sale and that many options for moving are on the table. He did not want to go on the record regarding any options.
“We’d have to sell our property first,” Madison Mutual President Mike Wenos said. “If this comes to fruition we’ll move from the property. We’re working through the next step. It might be six months to a year — maybe two years — before this comes to pass.”
The property is located along Illinois Route 157 and south of Governors’ Parkway. The acreage is prime ground being marketed by NAI DESCO.
The Byron project faced opposition during council deliberations. Some people have voiced criticism that the height of the building will conflict with the surroundings, although in reality it will not be too much taller than the building on the opposite side of Buchanan, which includes the 1818 Chop House.
“The one across the street, the Joe Meyers’ building, is a story and a half shorter. Will this look out of character? I don’t know. I think it will blend in eventually,” Harr said.
Harr pointed out that the design being floated looks more like a three-story structure because of tall window panes that are part of the design.
“It kind of hides the real number of floors in there,” he said.
The building would stand an estimated 71 feet tall, Harr said. By contrast, the HeplerBroom law office building on Main Street, which Byron also built, is 63 feet tall.
Special to the Illinois Business Journal
ALTON — Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC is investigating the rights of farmers, grain exporters and other industry partners in connection with China's rejection of U.S. corn and distiller's dried grains with solubles shipments due to the presence of the genetically modified corn Agrisure Viptera, manufactured by Syngenta Seeds Inc.
Farmers and other businesses already have filed lawsuits against Syngenta, the world's largest crop chemicals company, which introduced Viptera and Duracade into the U.S. corn supply. Although approved in the United States, neither Viptera nor its second-generation corn seed Duracade are approved by China for import.
Cases revolve around the fact that Syngenta encouraged farmers to plant Viptera and Duracade seeds before having approval that China, a major importer of U.S. corn, would accept the genetically modified product. The practice cross-pollinated the U.S. corn supply, reducing the amount of U.S. corn accepted by China, resulting in a glut of corn and a reduction in corn prices. The lawsuits claim that Syngenta's actions wrecked the U.S. corn export market to China and financially harmed corn farmers, agribusinesses and exporters who did not plant the Viptera or Duracade corn seed.
"There is a huge amount of interest in this issue in the agribusiness community, and rightfully so, since the entire corn market has suffered from China's refusal to accept shipments of corn with any traces of Viptera," said Paul J. Hanly, Jr., a shareholder at Simmons Hanly Conroy. "The number of GMO corn lawsuits continues to grow and we are aggressively enforcing the rights of farmers and others whose businesses and livelihoods have been harmed by this action."
The National Grain and Feed Association released an estimate in April 2014 stating that China's decision to reject U.S. corn and distiller's dried grains with solubles shipments as a result of Syngenta's Agrisure Viptera MIR 162 corn has resulted in $2.9 billion in losses to U.S. corn, dried grains shipments and soy sectors.
About Simmons Hanly Conroy LLC
Simmons Hanly Conroy is one of the largest plaintiffs' law firms in Illinois, which is the nation's second largest corn-producing state behind Iowa. The firm currently represents multiple farmers and related businesses in lawsuits against Syngenta.
The firm is one of the nation's largest mass tort law firms and has recovered more than $5 billion in verdicts and settlements for plaintiffs. Primary areas of litigation include asbestos and mesothelioma, pharmaceutical, consumer protection, environmental and personal injury. The firm's attorneys have been appointed to leadership in numerous national multidistrict litigations, including Vioxx, Yaz and Toyota Unintended Acceleration. The firm also represents small and mid-size corporations, inventors and entrepreneurs in matters involving intellectual property infringement and business litigation. Offices are located in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, St. Louis, and Alton, Ill. Read more at www.simmonsfirm.com.