The Supreme Court Rules For Worker Freedom

In a landmark decision last week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Illinois state worker Mark Janus, protecting his free speech and the free speech of public sector workers across the country. What will the impact be for workers and taxpayers alike? On this edition of Illinois Rising, Dan Proft and Wirepoints President Ted Dabrowski discuss the Court’s decision with Janus’ lead attorney Jacob Huebert of the Liberty Justice Center. Proft and Dabrowski also talk about the economic impact the decision might have. And beyond the Janus case, they discuss the outrageous payments and benefits disgraced members of Mike Madigan’s inner circle are receiving despite sexual harassment allegations levied against them.








CTU In The Business Of Protecting Job Security, Not Educating Children


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This is Pat Hughes with this week’s Upstream Ideas ‘Two Minute Warning.’  When Pritzker Elementary school laid off their librarian to cut costs in response to decreased enrollment, dozens of parents volunteered to staff the school library to keep it open.  Parents were finding a way to solve a problem of failed government and to serve the kids. Well---we can’t have that. The contemptible Karen Lewis and her Chicago Teachers Union filed a grievance against the school because parents had invaded their turf. Parents sadly---albeit predictably—were banned from staffing the library. Now students can’t check out books---At School--- AND the librarian is still jobless. Everybody loses while Karen Lewis and her union leadership hacks---people who claim to be educators---flex their muscle to ultimately line their pockets. Do you get it, Chicago? They don’t care about your children, no matter what they say.  Teachers Unions serve the interests of adults. In Chicago and elsewhere, they are in the business of winning better salaries and benefits, protecting job security, and otherwise advancing the interests of their members. That’s why in 2012 CTU members---some of the country’s best paid teachers--- went on strike until their pay was increased 16 percent. Here’s the deal. The kids in the system are cannon fodder. Each year, CPS fails to bring the majority of its students to grade-level achievement. And Only 26% of students graduate college-ready. Abject failure. There are solutions. But they require courage and action. You must challenge the status quo, and fight for “Educational Opportunity” and “Choice.” You must demand more charter schools and vouchers---so children aren’t relegated to a life of despair because of their parents income and zip code. Stand up for your children. If you don’t, you leave their education - and their futures---to those---like Karen Lewis---who don’t give a damn about either. You’ve been warned. For more Upstream Ideas visit www.Upstream-ideas.com


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Everything You Need To Know About The Chicago Public Schools Is Contained In The Story Of Joseph Ocol

“I joined CPS not to be a union member, but to purposefully help the kids.” 

Joseph Ocol teaches math and started chess clubs he coaches at Earle STEM Elementary School in Englewood, one of Chicago's toughest neighborhoods. For choosing to be with his students over participating in the Chicago Teachers' Union's one-day strike on April 1, Ocol was expelled from the union and now faces possible termination. Ocol joined Dan & Amy with an update on his status.

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Dan Proft: Good morning, Dan and Amy. Well, we were one of the first to bring you this story and develop it. This is the story of CPS, Chicago Public School math teacher and chess team coach, Joseph Ocol, who works at Earle STEM Academy in the Inglewood neighborhood. Rough neighborhood, high crime area, children from low income homes, and he’s done the unthinkable. Amy Jacobson: What’s that? Dan Proft: He’s started a chess team at the school – this is recently, within the last year, or two years, very recent – and because he prioritized his students over the Chicago Teachers’ Union he was expelled from the Teachers’ Union. He skipped the Union’s one day show protest. Amy Jacobson: Oh, the day of action. Yeah, that was April 1st. Dan Proft: The show strike on April 1st, and he did so because he was coaching his chess team. Coaching his chess team, so he didn’t want to do the walk around the Thompson Center with a sign about socialism, or whatever, and strike from his job. He just wanted to do his job. Well, he received a correspondence, via certified mail, from Chicago Teachers’ Union chief executive officer Karen Lewis, and that expelled him from the union. Now he wonders if he will continue to be employed by Earle STEM Academy and the Chicago Public School system. Amy Jacobson: We should remind people that you and other of our listeners raised thousands of dollars to send this group, this chess team, to Washington DC. Dan Proft: Yeah, they had an opportunity to go to DC, they were invited by Congressman Danny Davis, and so they needed to raise money to get there, and so thanks to generous AM560 listeners, we raised a bunch of money, sent it over to Earle STEM Academy. And I know they did – I’ve spoken to Joseph Ocol – I know they did go on that trip to DC, and we’ll talk to him about it right now, because we’re joined by math teacher and chess coach at Earle STEM Academy, Joseph Ocol. Joseph, thanks for joining us again. Appreciate it! Joseph Ocol: Hi, good morning, Dan and good morning to the listeners to your radio station. I want to take this opportunity to thank you for bringing me to your show this morning and giving me the opportunity to share with you the news. Dan Proft: Yeah, well, we’re pleased to have you on again, and so, why don’t we start with your current situation, before we get to the chess team. So you’re kicked out of the Chicago Teachers’ Union – hooray – and now what happens, or what are you concerned may happen, with respect to your continued employment at Earle STEM Academy? Joseph Ocol: It’s sad, but I have been expelled. I’m just concerned about the kids. I’m also concerned about my job and the future where I really would like to be with the kids and continue with the program, especially in Inglewood, where there are a lot of challenges. So I’m praying that I’ll still be able to surmount these challenges, to be able to continue my advocacy for helping the kids. Because there’s so much talent in Inglewood, there’s so much talent. These are children of poverty, but many of them are very talented kids. Dan Proft: They need opportunities and they need mentors like yourself. Have you got any indications from the principle or anybody in the administration about your employment status at the school? Joseph Ocol: Not yet, but I’m bracing for the worst scenario. But I still continue to receive bullying – I would call it bullying tactics and dirty picks from certain union bullies. I think they will never stop until they get rid of me from CPS. Amy Jacobson: Yeah, I’m sure they want you to resign, but since you’ve been expelled from the union, does your seniority, are you down to the bottom of the list, then, and you possibly might not come back next year because of budget cuts? Joseph Ocol: I hope to come back, but I leave it to God. It really breaks my heart if ever I would not be able to return. I hope to find another way where I can still continue my advocacy to help the kids. Dan Proft: I just want to go back to something. I think most people listening to this are going to find this just unfathomable. You started a chess club to teach children in elementary school the game of chess, and you’ve turned these children from chess novices to on their way to being grandmasters. They’ve been very successful during your time as their coach after starting these teams, and the response from the union and perhaps some of your colleagues at the school is what you describe as bullying tactics. Can you help us understand why they don’t appreciate what they’re doing? Joseph Ocol: I think it’s more about their loyalty to the union. I see it in another way. I would like to say that I became a teacher; I joined CPS not to be union member but purposefully to help the kids. I think that’s my role; that’s the role of a teacher, to be with the children. And last April 1st, when there was no other teacher, I decided to be with the kids, because the day before, the kids were telling me I should come on April 1st, because they will be coming. I just could not think of a better reason to say, “Yes, if you come then I will come”. So that’s when I decided to cross the picket line and be with them. Amy Jacobson: Are you concerned about your kids’ safety over the summer, because they don’t have the safe haven of school, they don’t have the afterschool chess program you provided for them? Joseph Ocol: Oh, I wish to thank you and Dan and everybody, all the donors, because we still have some money for the summer project, and we’re coming up with the summer project for the kids, and actually, I’ve been getting a number of applications, kids coming to me. They says they want to start [learning? 00:07:14] chess. I said let’s have a summer program. So we’re having a summer program run through, hoping that I’ll still be around, and we’re going to have mentors among these kids. You know, mentoring is a good way – I would call it the least expensive way - to master a skill. You teach the skill, you master the skill, and I plan to develop mentors among these children. Dan Proft: Just give us a little bit of the forward look for you. If you’re relieved of your teaching job, which is just going to be an incredible occurrence, what can you still do? Are you still this iris of continuing to at least coach chess there? Will they even allow you to do that? Will you have to continue the program off-school/off-site? What’s next to you? I know you need to be employed and work like anybody else, but you say you’re planning for the worst case scenario. So what’s that plan look like? Joseph Ocol: I would still like to be with the kids, if I’d be given that the fortune would be so. Of course, I will have to apply for a job, another job, but I would like to have a job where I can be more effective, and what’s effective if not teaching them, especially in math and in chess? Dan Proft: Your experience, what does this tell you about the Chicago Teachers’ Union and about how CPS is run? Joseph Ocol: I just feel that the Chicago’s Teachers Union should not bring the kids in the middle of whatever fight they want to pursue. I think the kids should be the ones to benefit. They should not be put in the middle. And that’s a hard decision for any teacher, whether or not it’s about loyalty to the union or dedication to the kids. To me, dedication to the kids comes first, over loyalty to the Union. Dan Proft: And with respect to today’s protest rally, whatever it is that the Chicago’s Teachers Union and their members are doing downtown, will you be participating in that? Joseph Ocol: No, actually, we’re excited to meet Mayor Emanuel and the rest of the members of the city council today. Amy Jacobson: Really? Joseph Ocol: So it’s all preparing, because we will be recognized by the city council, so everybody’s excited to be there. Dan Proft: Alright, so they’re going to be honored by the city council today, and their chess coach and math teacher. Amy Jacobson: For their accomplishments. Dan Proft: And the team, right, the kids, that’s great, and the chess coach and math teacher is facing expulsion from the system because he won’t abide the union. Amy Jacobson: You need to bring that certified letter to Mayor Emanuel. Can you please do that for us? Dan Proft: No paradox there. Alright, Joseph Ocol, continue your great work as long as you’re allowed to. I’m sure you’re going to find an outlet for it, regardless of what happens at Earle STEM Elementary school where you teach math and where you coach chess. Joseph, thanks again for joining us, appreciate your time. Joseph Ocol: Thank you very much!

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Dan Proft & Hilary Gowins Discuss CTU Strike

On this edition of “Illinois Rising”, Dan Proft and Hilary Gowins, Managing Editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, discuss university administrators who make $900,000 while MAP grants for low-income students are being cut, the Chicago Teachers’ Union most recent strike threat, and criminal justice reform with Will County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow and Lisa Creason of Decatur.

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Dan Proft: Good afternoon, Dan Proft back on another edition of Illinois Rising; my co-host this week is Hilary Gowins; she is the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, Hilary welcome! Hilary Gowins: Thanks, I’m glad to be here. Dan Proft: Very good, so a big week in state government; the fight this week over funding of higher education; not just the funding of universities themselves, but also map grants; and there’s a rally at Chicago State University, where cameras were there, so then Jesse Jackson Senior was obviously there as well, following the cameras as he is want to do, and he took the occasion of this rally at Chicago State for map grant funding, to compare governor Rauner to segregations governor George Wallace, and from the 60’, Jesse Jackson is saying the following: Jesse Jackson: Apparently he's indifferent to racism and poverty. He’s willing to sacrifice this school on the altar of a budget. Dan Proft: Governor Rauner indifferent to racism and poverty; that’s the charge that Jesse Jackson lodged, in addition to the comparison to George Wallace, which of course is indicative of Jesse Jackson Senior not being a serious person; but the underlying issue of map funding; Rauner wants to do one thing with a bi-partisan bill sponsored by Ken Dunkin, Chicago democrat, that will fund map grants, and Madigan and Cullerton want to do another thing with the bill that wouldn’t fund map grants, and someone Rauner is the modern day segregationist. It’s quite a contention that Jesse Jackson and some of the University presidents, and certainly their democrat legislative leaders in Springfield are making, isn’t it? Jesse Jackson: Yeah, it’s an interesting point to bring up. Really, the map grant situation is a bi-product of a higher education system that has brought tuition cost for students that are totally unaffordable for low income, or even middle class kids; and it’s a system that has been brought about under the watch of Madigan and Cullerton, much longer than Rauner’s ten year, so the problem goes back a lot farther than what they’re pointing out right now. Dan Proft: Well, let’s bring our friend Ted Dabrowski – he’s the vice president of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute – into this conversation. Ted, thanks for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thank you. Dan Proft: So earlier this week, in my morning show, we talked to state representative Mark Badneck, republican freshman from Plainfield, who became an expert in this area of higher-ed funding, and he makes the point that we spend twice as much as the average state per student, and yet tuition at Illinois College Universities is 30-50% higher than their conference peers, so it’s not a spending problem – at least, relative to other states – and yet we have high tuition, and yet the people that are in charge are not to blame, the guy who’s up there for 12 months and is actually trying to fund map grants is. Can you kind of unpack all of this for us? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, I think what’s happened is this whole budget crisis is being used to blame Rauner and his attempts to reform higher education finance, but when you strip out the problems, this budget crisis is really exposing the massive cracks that exist in higher education; and what’s happened is – these university leaders don’t want you to know it – but they’ve created these massive job programs at higher-ed, and they’ve blown up the number of administrators they have – they have way too many administrators – the pay is so high that the only way to pay all those people – the executive pay that they’re getting – is to really raise tuition; raise the rates that are no longer affordable for that person trying to make ends meet; and so you’ve got too many administrators, way too high executive pay, massive pensions, and the way they’re doing that is just take it off the hide of the kids in high tuitions. Hilary Gowins: Yeah, Ted, so I was looking at the numbers, I saw a report that you wrote – that was released last week – and I saw that, for example, the highest paid admin at University of Illinois, Chicago, in 2014, she made $887.000 in salary and bonuses, which would have funded approximately 329 map grants. So that sort of brings to light the disparity of the problem here. Dan Proft: One administrator made 900 grand? Hilary Gowins: One administrator. So Ted, can you unpack that too? I mean, let’s talk about tuition, because tuition in the last ten years at state schools in Illinois has doubled. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, they’ve doubled it, and I think you’re hitting a why, and it’s not just that high end guys who get that, but Paula Allen Meares got nearly $900.000 in 2014 from the University of Illinois. Think about what tuitions have to be to pay for that; but it’s not just her at the top spot; there are so many administrators now, the growth in administration has far outpaced the student growth – which has really been pretty small. Dan Proft: She should have to coach the men’s basketball team at UEI in addition to whatever else she’s supposedly doing for 900 grand. Ted Dabrowski: Well, I don’t know, Dan, I think that should be getting her about 2 million to 3 million. Dan Proft: Yeah, I know, but 900 grand for an administrator, what does she do? Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, it’s amazing, but it’s more than numbered administrators in addition to that, so let’s talk about Chicago State, which has been the one that’s gotten a lot of the attention. It’s gotten to the point now – this is amazing – that there’s almost one administrator for every professor. So it’s almost as if you were standing in your class, and then you were there, there’d be a professor talking, an administrator right there standing right next to him/her, overseeing what’s going on, and that’s what’s driven up the cost so much. Dan Proft: That’s like the Department of Ag Joke. A guy walks in the Department of Agriculture, and he sees a guy at his desk with his head down, and he’s crying, and he walks up and says, ‘What are you crying about?’, and the guy picks up his head and he says ‘My farmer died’. No? No? I thought that’s a good one, I liked that, that’s a pretty good government humor. Hilary Gowins: Pretty good. Ted Dabrowski: That is. Hilary Gowins: Ted, I think the bottom line, what is making me so angry about this, is that at the end of the day, the problem for families is that college, even at a state school, is unaffordable, it’s out of reach, it’s not something that you can get if you’re a kid by working your way through school; tuition is growing at a rate that we just can’t keep up with. Ted Dabrowski: Well yeah, I was talking to a buddy of mine, and we both worked our way through high school – I went to Georgia Tech – and we worked our way through all the time; you could do that back then – you could have a job, earn a decent amount of pay, and tuition was affordable enough that you could do both. Today, it’s really hard to do that. Tuitions have doubled in the last decade, and jobs are harder to come by, especially in Illinois, so to do that is phenomenal. Dan Proft: And so these map grants – let’s go back to this, because this was the topic du jour on higher-ed this week – map grants that are provided to a wide range of Illinois Colleges and Universities for students. Go back to the political fight in Springfield. Governor Rauner vetoes the legislative leaders’ proposal in this area; they failed to overwrite his veto, and he has got a bi-partisan piece of legislation that would fund the map grants for these students – that is a wait in action. Explain the difference between the two and what happened this past week. Ted Dabrowski: The democrats want to pass a bill that effectively just spends money that we don’t have. And Rauner, of course, is trying to get the reforms. There are two things going on: one, he wants the budgetary reforms, so that we don’t keep doing the [excess? 00:08:19] penny borrowing, and having an unbalanced budget that we’ve had for now nearly two decades; that’s number one – number two though is before you enhance more money to the colleges and universities, he wants to see them reformed, because if not, all they do is they take the state money, and they hire more people, and they raise tuition. And so it defeats the purpose of trying to fund higher-ed. So he’s trying to come up with a bill that is funded, that there is money there to give, due to the map grants, and can assure that when we pay map grants then suddenly we’re not funding – then we have a problem if we don’t have revenues for that, we’re just going to create more problems with the social service agencies that are waiting for money; so he’s trying to avoid multiple problems at the same time. Dan Proft: And so, one of the other things was some of these university presidents saying ‘We don’t want to get involved in politics, we’re not playing politics, we haven’t been told by legislative leaders to appear or not appear with the governor and any other politician, because this was an allegation the governor had made, that Madigan told them ‘Don’t appear with the governor until after the primary’; yet Chicago State, the president there, is rallying with Jesse Senior while he’s calling the governor George Wallace. Ted Dabrowski: I think what’s amazing is that University Pres. may want to look at their administrative staff. We just calculated the numbers, and if Chicago State reduced its loaded administration – and I mentioned they have one administrator for every faculty member – if they reduced their administration by a third, they could fund any one of those map grants that is not funded today. Dan Proft: Right, and so it’s worth appointing – I don’t think I’ve said this explicitly – the map grants are for low income students, so they’re the champions of low income students, but they won’t reorganize their own house to free up money to provide access to their college and universities for their said low income students. Ted Dabrowski: Yeah, and then that’s why I think in the end it should become job programs for adults, and they’re forgetting the kids who now can’t afford to go there. I think we have to flip this thing on its head and change the narrative; it has nothing to do with a budget crisis – it has all to do with the decades long loathe and growth in salary and pensions. We didn’t even talk about pensions; that’s eating up most of the state aid that’s going from the state to the universities. Dan Proft: And so that’s the point, going back to this twice as much as the average state on higher-ed what Illinois spends for student; it’s not like that money is going to the classroom – very much like at the K-12 level, it’s going to the administrative overhead pensions, the benefits, and the like. Ted Dabrowski: That’s right, and if you look at the pensions that all these administrators would get, most of them are retired in their fifties, because they were allowed to retire in their fifties, and they’ll bring in three to five to six million dollars in pension income, and that’s what the kids’ tuitions are trying to pay for, and it just doesn’t work that way. It shouldn’t work that way. Dan Proft: He is Ted Dabrowski – he’s the vice president of Policy at the Illinois Policy Institute. Ted, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Ted Dabrowski: Thank you. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; she is the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and criminal justice reformed the big issue for the Illinois policy institute. Governor Rauner, big issue for him. He formed in Illinois State commission on criminal justice and sentencing reform in his first year in office, trying to reduce the prison population in Illinois by 25%, and if you’re going to do that, need to work with law enforcement, and think perhaps about creative things to do to help non-violent offenders get on a path to being productive citizens, and this is an initiative the Illinois Policy Institute is pursuing as well. Hilary Gowins: Right. So, a lot of the numbers here show that what we’re doing now is just basically us banging our heads against the wall; so we know that really half of ex-offenders who serve their sentence and leave the prison will end up back behind bars within three years. On the contrary, if a person is employed within a year of being released, they are only 16% likely to go back behind bars, so something’s got to change. These aren’t just numbers, these are real people’s lives, we’re losing human capital, and we’re spending a lot of money in the process, and it’s just not working. Dan Proft: You’re right, you need to have people that have a stake in society; they’re less likely to commit a crime if they got a stake in society; and so, the balancing of you have to punish people who break the law, you have to keep the rest of society safe from criminal predators, but there needs to be some ability for the system to make judgment calls about somebody committing an offense – mostly non-violent offenses, I’d suggest – and they pay their debt, and they get it, and they made a mistake, and they’re unlikely to make that mistake again, how do we reintegrate them into society in a way that they can be productive? Hilary Gowins: Well, one of the biggest problems is that even when a person’s rehabilitated, and they serve their time, and they do their time and they get out, we’re telling them no to meaningful work. They’re not able to find jobs that allow them to support themselves and their families, and that’s the biggest problem: if you can’t find work, all of a sudden, it’s a lot easier to go back to what you know, and that might land you back behind bars. Dan Proft: You put them back in the desperate straits that maybe incentivized them to make a bad choice in the first place. Hilary Gowins: And it’s not hard to understand. Well, we’ve got a good case study in this, and this young lady spoke at an Illinois Policy Institute event recently; her name is Lisa Creason, she comes to us from Decatur, and Lisa, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it. Lisa Creason: Thanks, thanks for having me. Dan Proft: And so, on this issue of criminal justice reform and helping people that make a mistake reintegrate into society so they don’t make those same mistakes again, you have a particular compelling story to tell. Why don’t you tell us that story about making a bad choice when you were a young woman, then getting back to making good choice. Lisa Creason: Well, when I was 19 - that would have been back in 1993 - I was convicted and found guilty of attempted robbery. I had walked into a local restaurant, and told the cashier to give me the money out of the cash register. I was at a very desperate time of my life at that time; I was a single mom with a young child at home, and we needed some food, and I was about to be evicted from my apartment, and it was just a really bad time; in a moment of despair I made a very bad decision that landed me a felony conviction. Dan Proft: And just to fill the detail on this event, when you said ‘Give me the cash and the cash register’, were you armed at the time? Lisa Creason: No, I wasn’t very experienced in this field, thank God. I just really went in and made a demand the cashier refused and I split. Of course, I didn’t even make an attempt to conceal my identity when I went into the store, because I just really believed that my thinking was just so desperate at the time, that I really hoped something would change in my life to get me on the track I needed to be on. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, I think what is compelling about your story is you’re so upfront about the fact that you were in a bad place in your life, and you made a bad decision, and you had to pay the consequences, but I know that a lot of people have been inspired by your story, because after you went through all of that, you came out and you worked hard, and now you got your nursing degree, and you just want to get back to work and put food on the table for your kids, but you’re being told no. Tell me about that. Lisa Creason: When I came home, I really wanted to give back to my community, because I felt like that was what I needed to do in order to pay back the little bit of trouble that I had given them; so, of course I started working with at risk teens and doing things within the community to reduce violence, but then I went to school so that I could be able to invest in my children’s future, as far as their college, their stability, and as you said, I graduated and then proceeded to take my state licensing test, and I received a not so nice leatherback that said that I was permanently barred from taking the licensure test due to a 22 year old felony conviction that I just spoke of. Dan Proft: And just to be clear, you did serve time in prison for the offence? Lisa Creason: I did, I was sentenced to three years, and I served one year in prison, and then was released to the Work Release in Decatur, Illinois, and I successfully completed that program, and just charged from there. Dan Proft: And then the subsequent two decades that are prior to wanting to sit for your nursing exam, no incidents with the law, just taking care of your family? Lisa Creason: Actually I had an incident in 1999 with a traffic situation, where I claimed the responsibility for driving a vehicle that I actually was not driving, but other than that, no. No further incidents other than that. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, I know that your story is incredible, and it shows how frustrating this process can be, and what’s even harder, probably for you and for a lot of people listening to hear, is that there are more than 110 of these occupations that the state licenses, so you have to get permission from the state to work in these fields, barbers, beauticians, all different kinds of careers, and people like you, Lisa, who maybe made a mistake are being told no, even if you just want to be productive and get a job, you can’t get this license to work. Lisa Creason: Well, see, the crazy thing in my situation and like others like me is, in fact the state did tell us yes at one point in time; I was granted a waiver from the Illinois Department of Public Health, that granted me permission to pursue the nursing field in 2005, but then lawmakers came back in 2011 with this new law that restricted licensure for forcible felonies, and they didn’t allow any room for individuals like myself who had already went through the process, and been granted a waiver. Dan Proft: Now that’s given raise, that’s interesting: the state giveth and the state taketh away. Lisa Creason: You’re right. Dan Proft: It’s given raise to senate bill 42, which would allow ex-offenders like you the chance to petition the state like you did the Department of Health back in 05’, to petition the agency that regulates these professions, as Hilary was describing, the chance to get a waiver, so that if you’ve proven that you’re a contributing member of society, and you would make a great nurse, or whatever profession the state licenses, that you can get a waiver and pursue that. Lisa Creason: And that’s correct, and that’s why senate bill 42’s so important, because without this bill we’ll restricting hundreds of careers, from nursing to becoming a barber; I mean, it’s ridiculous, the things that are restricted with this law; but it’s been proven – it just makes more sense to Illinois – because it’s been proven repeatedly through research, study after study after study, that if ex-offenders are fully employed, with good substantial employment, then they are less likely to reoffend. It just makes more sense, to keep more people out here paying taxes, contributing to the economy, instead of taking more tax money away from the tax payers to warehouse people that don’t necessarily need to be warehoused, they just needed an opportunity and didn’t have one. Hilary Gowins: And Lisa, just like you said, this is common sense, this isn’t a republican or democrat issue, our system needs to get smart on crime, not hard on crime anymore, and give people a chance at work, and taking care of themselves. Lisa Creason: What being hard on crime has gotten us has become very cold hearted to the families that are involved beyond being hard on crime. Everybody makes a mistake in life, whether it’s a criminal mistake, whether it’s a mistake with our value system in life, everyone knows what it’s like to make a mistake and regret that mistake. We have to remember how to have empathy for the next person, and the family they’re bringing up, as we want to make the state better, because the cycle has stop somewhere. Dan Proft: Speaking of family, you mentioned you were a single mom when you committed that crime. What subsequently happened if you got out of prison with the child you had at the time and then subsequent children? How was your family? Lisa Creason: Well, my family’s great, thank you! I have a sixteen year old son and a ten year old son who are still at home, they’re both honor roll, they participate in sports. My daughter has grown. She’s a certified nursing assistant, and she currently attends college for dental hygienist, and then I also have custody of a long time friend of my son’s, who’s adoptive mother passed away a few years back, so I’ve got a lot of kids around, but that’s a blessing. Dan Proft: Wow, and it’s a great turn-around story too. Lisa Ceason, thanks so much for joining us and good luck. Appreciate it! Lisa Creason: Thank you, have a good day. Dan Proft: You too. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins this week; she’s the managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, we were just talking to Lisa Creason about ex-offenders and criminal justice reform in the state of Illinois to give people who made a mistake but have paid their price, and set themselves on the straightened arrow, give them a chance to be contributing productive members of society. This is something the Illinois Policy Institute has taken up with some strange bedfellows, including the ACLU; can you give us a framework of what you were trying to do? Hilary Gowins: Yeah, we are doing everything to emphasize reforming bad policies that prevent people who have made a mistake and served their time from being productive members of society, essentially. So we’re going to talk to Jim Glasgow here in a minute, and the reason that we are working with Jim and the people on his program is because Jim, who is the Will County State’s Attorney, his group founded the first drug court in Illinois. So a drug court is a program that takes people who are charged with possession… Dan Proft: Not violent drug offenders. Hilary Gowins: Not violent drug offenders, no. So these people are charged with possession, they’re addicted to heroin, or whatever it may be, and instead of going to prison, which costs $38,000/year/inmate in Illinois, they put them through a rehabilitation program that costs $3000/successful graduate; so think about that: that’s $38,000 versus $3000, and we’re actually doing something productive, that gets people out of the system, gets the felony off their records, so once they’re rehabilitated, they can get back to work, they can get on with their lives, and they’re going to be out of the system. So this is the great program. Dan Proft: So let’s bring in the aforesaid Will County State’s Attorney, Jim Glasgow. Jim, thanks so much for joining us, appreciate it. Jim Glasgow: Pleasure. Dan Proft: So you were a bit ahead of the learning curve on this – the Will County Drug Court you created back in 1999, so you have a pretty good body of evidence to suggest how this is working for non-violent drug offenders, not only in terms of helping them with their addiction, so they don’t commit petty crimes, or worse, but then also helping them get on a pathway to being productive citizens. Just give us a sense of what’s happened over the seventeen years now that this program has been in place in Will County. Jim Glasgow: That’s a tight timeframe, Dan, but back in 1998, I saw a grant come across the wire for half a million dollars for a drug court; but it was a judicial grant, so I went for the chief judge, and got his permission to write it, because I had the staff to do it. We didn’t know how to incite this – it’s on East Coast and on West Coast, and saw the courts in action – and when we opened our court in late 99’ – early 2000’, there were about 500 drug courts nationwide. Today there’s 3400. I think that is a resonating validation of how effective they are, and I always like to tout the fact that, 2000 we had a graduate of our drug court, that avoided a felony conviction. She went to college, she went to Law School, and I hired her as a prosecutor in my office, and then ceremoniously I had her attend drug court graduation, and make the motion dismiss the felony charges against the drug court graduates, just as she had it done for her. Now when you talk about the value of drug courts, just take that one person who’s not a lawyer, that could have been a convicted felon, take them out over a 75 year lifespan each way, Dan, tell me how many millions of dollars difference you have there. Dan Proft: Yeah, and is there any data on recidivism rates in terms of those that go through the drug court versus those that have been imprisoned? The non-violent drug offenders… Jim Glasgow: Our drug court’s been phenomenally successful. I’ve had great people personnel running the court; Julie McCabe-Sterr is running it now, and she’s – I call her Mother Theresa – she’s been running it since 2004 and the results have been phenomenal. We basically have a 95% success rate. Only 5% of the graduates have reoffended with a drug offence. That’s phenomenal. The normal recidivism rate is 65-75% on up. In the prior programs that were in place there were well intentions, and I won’t mention them, but they’ve pretty much put the individual on their on so that they’ll be good, and they weren’t; in fact, we still get people from those programs into our drug court, who failed there, give them a second chance, and with the intensive counseling that you get in drug court, first there’s incarceration, then there’s impatient treatment, then there’s constant – you know – urine drops, then we put you in a halfway house for six months, get you a job as we’re weaning you back into society. The total cost is about $3000. When you consider it costs $30,000 to lock someone up in prison during the same period of time; we’ve a Redeploy Illinois program we could talk about sometime, where we’re diverting non-violent property offenders who are just cycling through DOC into the work force, and that instrument has potential. Getting back to the drug court, we’ve had a tremendous increase in heroin overdoses, and but for our drug course, we thought it would be much worse if I had at least a half a dozen of the graduates come up to me after graduation, shake my hand and thank me because they said, ‘I’d be dead if it wasn’t for this court’, because the heroin that’s out on the street today, I’m sure you know, is so deadly, the potency is higher than we’ve ever seen it before, and here we were averaging single digit overdoses – maybe low teens and in 2009 we spiked the 29, and then we hit the highest 53 in 2012, and we repeated that last year; we’ve knocked it down a little bit for two years, but the drug court has been the bastion to keep us on task here, but there’s no way, once you’ve started using heroin - you’re not the same person. Your rational thought process has come undone. You’re basically – they call it – chasing the dragon. And sadly, we’ve had three fatal overdoses in our drug court; that’s how compelling… where you have the sword of Damocles over your head with a prison sentence or a felony conviction, you got the state of the art treatment, the state of the art psychological help, and you still can’t stay away from the drugs. Dan Proft: Well, I’ll tell you what, 95% success rate, it’s great, not just in terms of the expense that you’re saving taxes, but turning people’s lives around, which is more important, and frankly, with our prisons being about 30% overcrowded, it seems that that’s a much better path for law enforcement than the incarceration path. County State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, thanks so much for joining us, good luck with the program, appreciate it. Jim Glasgow: Dan, thank you very much. Take care! Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, this week, the Chicago Teacher’s Union telegraphed that they are prepared to strike, or maybe reiterate it – they’ve been saying that for several months now; maybe as early as April 1st if CPS goes through with the threat to stop making the 7% contribution to teacher’s pensions that it’s been making for the last 7 years – 7% of the total 9% that teachers contribute to their pensions, which – what’s the average pension for CPS teacher? Hilary Gowins: Well, I know the average salary is about $70,000, and lifetime payouts are about $2,000,000 for most workers. Dan Proft: And I saw that – I think the average pension for recently retired career teachers – $73,350; that’s – in real dollars, in present value – that’s more like a pension that’s north of $2,000,000 dollars. Hilary Gowins: Right. Dan Proft: So think about the average family man. I always try to put this into real dollars. The average family in Illinois, do you know how long it takes to save $2,000,000 dollars to pay yourself $73,000 dollars a year in retirement? Forever; infinity; you can’t do it. Hilary Gowins: Well, the medium household income in Chicago is $40,000, you know, so that’s something to think about, and what’s really sad is that instead of talking about kids and how we’re going to improve the 66% graduation rate that CPS has… Dan Proft: And I don’t even believe that number. Hilary Gowins: Right, well they’ve inflated it to 69% and since walked it back to 66%, but instead of talking about kids and how we’re going to improve education for 350,000 students, we’re talking about asking people to pay into their retirement, instead of us picking it up for them; since 1981, Chicago has paid 1.2 billion dollars in pension pick-up costs. Dan Proft: Well, it’s a third party administrator for the adults in the system, that’s just what CPS is, and it’s interesting that you know 350,000 kids in the system. I remember, not so long ago, that number was 400,000 kids; so you’re seeing people flee that system, people who can, and of course those that cannot are the ones that are treated the worst at exorbitant prices; the strike that CTU – Chicago Teacher’s Union – is talking about, why wouldn’t they strike, when they’ve struck three, four years ago, they rolled Tiny Dancer and City Hall, so why wouldn’t they do the same thing and receive the same benefit? They’ve got 300 million dollar increase in salary and benefits as a result of the last strike; why not continue on and that means CPS has to borrow money at Tony Soprano rates, or somebody has to be carved up to fund their guaranteed salaries and pensions, then so be in; and what disincentive do they have to do that, because who stood up and said no to them, except, perhaps, governor Rauner? Hilary Gowins: Right, and if you look at Illinois labor law, they’re actually not allowed to strike on April 1st, based on the steps they’d have to go into an actual strike, but that’s exactly what they did in 2012, so you know, the rules don’t really matter, I guess, to CTS and CTU. Dan Proft: Well, who’s going to stop them? Hilary Gowins: Nobody’s going to stop them. They’re saying that asking teachers to pay the full 9% toward their pension costs is an unfair labor practice, but the problem is that they’re not willing to come to the negotiation table in good faith; CPS is saying ‘We will give you raises if you just pay for your pension cost’, and they’re saying that that’s unfair; but truth is that Chicago teacher pensions have just half of the funding that they need to pay out for retirement costs now, so the system has to change. Dan Proft: And CPS; I don’t want to give anyone the impression that CPS is wearing the white hat in this story; CPS, the latest toddy in charge Forrest Claypool, they’re just as craven and disingenuous as the Chicago Teacher’s Union in terms of the finances. I mean, what’s Forrest Claypool been doing – and Tiny Dancer, by extension? They haven’t proposing structural reforms, they’ve been running down to Springfield with their ten cups saying ‘Give us half a billion dollars’. Hilary Gowins: Right, nobody wants to talk about structural reforms, they don’t want to talk about what it’s going to take to get kids an education; they don’t want to talk about that. They want to talk about ‘Well, give me this much money so that we can just make it by for another year’. Dan Proft: And another thing too, you mentioned the inflated 66% graduation rate; let’s even take that to be true, for the sake of discussion, what percentage of those 66% are coming out ready for the workforce or post-secondary education? Hilary Gowins: What’s really low, a lot of the kids who end up going to college after they graduate – whether it’s the city College of Chicago, or somewhere else – they end up having to take remedial courses anyway, because they weren’t ready to be in college in the first place. Dan Proft: Yeah, I remember when the consortium in Chicago School Research over at University of Chicago started looking at that; what is Chicago public school graduate? What’s really happening after they graduate, they found – this is about a decade old – they found initially that about 1/10 high school freshman CPS would get a bachelor’s degree by the age of 25. 1/10 – so, in 400,000 kids, now 350,000 kids – 1/10 will get a BA by 25. Now I think that number has moved up to maybe 1/6, but still, 50-60% of 350,000 kids that are going to get a bachelor degree by the age of 25, death of civilization numbers. Hilary Gowins: Right, I mean this is a system that is just churning kids out; it’s not good, something’s got to change, and when you consider that in neighborhoods like Englewood, unemployment is hovering somewhere around 20%, there are neighborhoods in Chicago that are really struggling, and a lot of those kids in those neighborhoods are stuck going to CPS schools. They can’t get out, there are no alternatives; the kids really suffer. They can’t leave these schools, and here we are talking about teacher pensions. Dan Proft: Discriminating against children based on their household income and their address, dis-proportioning minorities, same thing with employment. Wall Street Journal this week – story on the state with the worst employment for African-Americans in the country; the worst – Illinois, north of 40% in the forth quarter last year; under Chicago democrat rule, the black caucus in the city council, the black caucus in the general assembly, the Chicago democrats who have run the city of Chicago for 100 years; who’s being left behind? Hilary Gowins: Yeah, kids just don’t have hope. Dan Proft: Dan Proft back with Hilary Gowins; managing editor of the Illinois Policy Institute, and Hilary, governor Rauner – got a little animated this week. I’d like to see him get off script and talk like the guy that was the candidate that people decided needed to be the governor, and really get after the legislative leaders in Springfield. You can only offer so many olive branches before you need to take those branches and woop some people with them, and that’s what he started to do this week, when he addressed the issue of higher-ed funding, and what Cullerton and Madigan are doing with a bi-partisan bill that is on the table to fund higher education. Here’s governor Rauner: Bruce Rauner: We’ve got a dictatorship of one individual who cares about politics over people. Dan Proft: And he’s talking about House Speaker Mike Madigan, of course. Governor Rauner went on on topic. Bruce Rauner: We have a bi-partisan bill to fund our universities with 160 million dollars right now. Speaker Madigan is managing this process for political games, political gain in the primary election, not to help our students. Dan Proft: And so the question is this war of words between governor Rauner and Mike Madigan, this war of wills too on matter like higher-ed funding, how do you think this plays out for the governor? Hilary Gowins: I think that Rauner is telling the truth, obviously; Madigan and Cullerton have been in Illinois politics for more than eighty years, so that just tells you how in trench they are with the status quo. Many in the media continue to shield Madigan, and I don’t know that this strategy is necessarily working out for Rauner right now. Dan Proft: And he went on, and he had – apparently – kind of a private conversation with Cullerton, that he decided to make public in a very entertaining way. It’s a rather incredible statement that he relayed Cullerton made to him. Bruce Rauner: And you know what the president Cullerton said to me in private? He said, ‘Bruce, I’ve lived in Mike’s shadow for 37 years, I’m not going to step out now’. Can you believe that? You wonder why Illinois is in such deep yogurt ladies and gentlemen? Dan Proft: No, I don’t wonder. I don’t wonder at all. It’s a real profile encourage down there with senate president John Cullerton, who lords over a super majority of democrats and is very comfortable in Mike Madigan’s shadow. Hilary Gowins: Yeah, here’s the problem, I think people like us, Dan, and a lot of our listeners, are very involved in Illinois politics; they read about Madigan and his antics, but there are tons of other people in Illinois who just, you know, they don’t know the nuances. I think Rauner is really missing an opportunity to change the conversation, to pull a down-draper, and instead of focusing on… Dan Proft: Oh, you went mad men on us. Hilary Gowins: The men behind the curtain, who are Madigan and Cullerton, I think he needs to start talking about the things that we were talking about at the top of this show, which include the breakdown in higher education funding, for example. He would be really smart to do that, and here’s a great opportunity, but right now we’re talking about two men who the most people in Illinois don’t really know exist. Dan Proft: So you’re suggesting he needs to do more explaining. This is – forget the competing bills, forget Madigan’s a dictator of one – although I think more and more people are becoming aware of Mike Madigan and it is difficult, especially for the left, to defend the idea of the guy who’s been here for twelve months is the problem; not the guy who’s been in charge for three decades, especially after they’ve spent the last eight years saying everything that’s happened during the Obama administration is George Bush’s fault. They put him in a little bit of a trick back, the left, but to your point, when you talk about higher-ed, or you talk about the Chicago public schools, or any other budget matter, system change is a nice phrase, but you got to drill it down so you can bring people along with you. Hilary Gowins: Right, and I’m not saying that he should avoid exposing Madigan and Cullerton for what they really are; and they’re people who are out for themselves, and out to protect the elite members of their inside circle, but he has to balance that with things that people understand. He has to speak to the people, and to do that he needs to talk about things like higher education in terms of look at how much tuition has cost us and it’s doubled in the last decade for Illinois public universities; why is that? Talk about loaded administrative roles, talk about pensions that take up more than half of the higher-ed funding; he has to break it down for people. Dan Proft: I think actually that’s an excellent point, and I think it’s underappreciated, particularly by republicans – they just want to play this democrat game rather – I think people viscerally know what’s happening, but they don’t know the details, and they want details; they want to understand it. You got a kid going to college, you want to understand it; why am I paying more to send my kid to U of I than my friends in Indiana are paying to send their kids to IU, or University of Iowa, or any other. I mean, people do want to be brought along and understand that, and if you do that then you turn people into proselytes just for your message, and can start to have a multiplier effect where you can – as you said – change the conversation and start to change some outcomes. Hilary Gowins: Right, this hits people at home. This hits families where it hurts. Rauner’s done a good job talking about things like property taxes, which everybody who owns a home in Illinois feels. We’ve talked to – at the Illinois Policy Institute – a woman in Crystal Lake – who is paying $1,100 for her mortgage and $1,500 a months for her property tax. Telling people numbers like that, it shocks them.


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Dan Proft & Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute

On this edition of “Illinois Rising”, Dan Proft and Ted Dabrowski, VP of Policy, Illinois Policy Institute, discuss how Lincolnshire is the first municipality in Illinois to become a right-to-work zone, the Chicago Teacher’s Union received 96.5 percent support from its members for a strike, a group of Republican legislative candidates supporting legislation to recall Rahm Emanuel and more.

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When teachers threaten a strike, call their bluff.

chicago tribune mast head
chicago tribune mast head

By Dan Proft (Article published in The Chicago Tribune on 12/10/15)

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan put a marker down for the rule of law when he fired more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers who had walked off the job in violation of federal law, despite enjoying the backing of their union, PATCO, in the 1980 presidential campaign.

Is there a school board in Illinois willing to put a marker down for the next time its teachers walk the picket line?

In recent months, there have been three missed opportunities.

The 150 teachers at Prospect Heights School District 23 were out for a week in September before they came to terms with the board for a contract that provides a 14.25 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making less than $90,000 annually and a 9.75 percent pay increase over four years for teachers making more than $90,000.

Mari-Lynn Peters, the school board president, told me that for every job opening in District 23, the board receives 200 to 300 applications.

In October, it was the 248 teachers at McHenry County School District 156 who walked for a week. They agreed to come back after the board agreed to a 9 percent raise over three years in addition to splitting the cost of covering increased health insurance contributions.

Before the new contract, the average teacher salary in District 156 was just under $80,000, with 15 percent of teachers making more than $100,000 and two-thirds of teachers making more than $70,000. As in Prospect Heights, McHenry 156 board President Steve Bellmore told me that a substantial number of applications are received when there is a job opening in the district.

On Nov. 2, East St. Louis District 189 teachers returned to class after 21 days on strike with a four-year deal that provides an average salary increase of $12,834 over the life of the contract along with fully paid employee medical, dental, vision and life insurance (no deductible).

In East St. Louis, all of the more than 6,000 children in the district qualify for the free or reduced school lunch program. The median household income in East St. Louis is $19,000. The median pre-strike District 189 teacher salary was $72,000. Only 6 percent of East St. Louis students are deemed college-ready in spite of the fact that in the 2012-13 school year, East St. Louis spent $14,462 per student, compared with a statewide average of $11,483 among similarly sized school districts. And, when I say the district, I really mean the state of Illinois, because District 189 has been under state oversight since 2011 and receives two-thirds of its funding from state government.

My grammar school basketball coach used to tell us, "The graveyards are full of indispensable people."

The school boards in Prospect Heights, McHenry and East St. Louis all had the opportunity to put that pithy aphorism to the test in an environment where it appears that demand for teaching jobs outstrips supply.

I understand why they demurred. Replacing people is no fun.

But no individual teacher or even district full of teachers is more important than moving the K-12 culture away from conferring salaries and benefits to the adults and toward schools that are child-centered and outcome-focused.

Some will dismiss this piece as an attack on teachers because it is easier to propagate the imaginary battle between pro-teacher and anti-teacher forces.

But someone has to put a marker down.

School districts throughout Illinois, including in the leafy suburbs, are following the trajectory of the bankrupt, junk-rated Chicago Public Schools.

So it's apropos that CPS is up next for its second teacher strike in five years.

Rather ironically, Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis seems to be the last honest potentate in the Illinois edu-ocracy. To keep CPS teachers enjoying the lifestyle to which they have become accustomed, Lewis supports a LaSalle Street tax on financial transactions and a progressive state income tax, and she is open to a city income tax if that's what it takes.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS chief Forrest Claypool pretend they can make a go of it at CPS with a $500 million state bailout of a system where a $1 billion annual budget deficit is the new normal.

Clearly the PATCO moment will not occur inside the leadership vacuum that is Chicago.

But it is going to happen if for no other reason than the axiomatic Herbert Stein's Law: If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.

Our K-12 school systems cannot go on forever in their current form. Even if the will is weak, the math is inexorable.

Original article can be found here: http://trib.in/1NXRD3L