As always, you can contact me via webform at www.repbennett.com, or by phone at (815) 844-9179 (Pontiac) or (815) 432-0106 (Watseka). Thank you for the honor of serving as our district's representative in Springfield.
ISBE approves recommendations to expand teacher workforce
The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) approved a set of recommendations first laid out in the Teach Illinois report to help expand and diversify Illinois' teacher workforce. The recommendations in the report were the result of a year-long study which included data analysis, focus groups and reviews of research conducted at the state and national level. More than 150 public comments were also considered by ISBE in making their recommendations.
The intention of the report which ISBE approved is to maintain the high standards we expect for hiring teachers, but to get rid of certain barriers and create new pathways for those wishing to enter the teaching profession. ISBE recommended that the legislature make some specific changes to the Illinois School Code to help with this effort.
One proposed change involves removing a basic skills test for those who already possess a bachelor's degree from a properly-accredited institution when they seek initial licensure or endorsement on a license. Another calls for an expansion of mentoring supports to teachers and principals, while a third would create different routes to licensure for personnel such as substitutes, paraprofessionals, transitional bilingual educators and career changers.
Those elements of ISBE's report which require changes to state law will be reviewed by the legislature when we get back into session. The full report can be reviewed at www.isbe.net/teachillinois.
Learning about Chronic Wasting Disease
Shotgun deer season is just around the corner, and an issue on the minds of many hunters and conservation officials is Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). CWD is a fatal neurological disease which can strike a number of animals, including white-tail deer, and which has been found throughout North America. Information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) indicates that CWD has been reported in Livingston County and 16 other northern Illinois counties, as well as states across the middle part of the country.
CDC is unsure if CWD can be spread to people who consume deer meat, but they strongly recommend that hunters have deer meat tested before consuming it. Earlier this fall, the Department of Natural Resources held informational meetings around the state to discuss the disease and their efforts to prevent its spread.
I recently met with Russ Geisler and Rory Serafini, along with Senators Jason Barickman and Chapin Rose to discuss this problem and learn more about what state government can do about it. More information is available from IDNR, including sites where deer hunters can have their deer tested for CWD.
How much do we owe?
As of the time of this writing, the State of Illinois owes $6,945,069,128 in unpaid bills to state vendors. This figure represents the amount of bills submitted to the office of the Comptroller and still awaiting payment. It does not include debts that can only be estimated, such as our unfunded pension liability which is subject to a wide range of factors and has been estimated to be approximately $130 billion.
Remember to â€˜Fall back' on Saturday night
Daylight saving time ends at 2 a.m. on Sunday morning November 4, so remember to set those clocks back one hour before going to bed on Saturday night. Next March we will once again â€˜spring forward' and set the clocks ahead an hour with the coming of spring.
Flood Plain 101
We recently hosted another in our ongoing series of â€˜flood plain management 101' meetings for local officials. I was glad to have our partners from DNR there to help lead us through a number of important topics. We had representation from all five counties in the district, and there were some good questions and good conversation.
Unlike an ice storm or a tornado, where a large part of the preparedness action relies on individuals, flooding requires action by entire communities and regions. Flood emergencies also can last for many days or even weeks at a time. We have seen their effects both nationally (think of Houston last year or North Carolina this year) and locally â€“ in Iroquois County twice in the last three years. That's why I am so glad that so many local officials have stepped up to join in keeping our communities safe from another severe flood. This effort will take a very long time, but it starts by working together to build knowledge and preparedness.
Did You Know?
Illinois will celebrate its bicentennial birthday on December 3. December is the most common month for states to join the federal union. Illinois is joined by eight others which achieved statehood in the 12th month of the year: Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Indiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Texas and Iowa.