Education board seeks more funds

SPRINGFIELD – Just a day after Gov. Rod Blagojevich flew around the state promoting his plan to dismantle the State Board of Education, the board asked a House budget committee for an increase of more than $600 million in general revenue funds for the year beginning July 1.

"It is a very realistic request with regard to attempting to address what the needs are that the school districts have today," said Robert Schiller, state schools superintendent.

Groups claim last budget has cut jobs in state

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business released a survey Monday claiming that at least 30 companies are moving out of state and more than 250 firms have either laid off workers or canceled plans to fill jobs.

The business groups attribute the job losses to the budget package the governor and Democratic-controlled General Assembly approved last spring – a budget that included more than 300 fee increases and eliminated a number of business tax breaks.

Tax checkoff gift options at all-time high

SPRINGFIELD – Every year, Illinois taxpayers have the option to give part of their refund to a variety of charitable causes when they file their taxes.

The checkoff funds have come and gone over time, competing for donations that amounted last year to 26 cents per tax return.

Governor to attend rally here

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod Blagojevich is scheduled to attend a rally of approximately 300 students, principals and teachers at 3:30 p.m. Monday at Champaign Centennial High School's cafeteria.

"The purpose of the rally is to take all of the initiatives that he mentioned at the State of the State and present them directly to the people," said Blagojevich spokeswoman Rebecca Rausch.

Neuronal connections, heal thyselves

Tiny chambers mimicking the environment of the brain will allow University of Illinois researchers to make and study networks of brain cells to find new treatments for brain damage and diseases.

"We have to fool the neurons into thinking they're in the brain," UI chemistry Professor Jonathan Sweedler said recently.

Southern Poverty Law Center wants to nix Chief

The Southern Poverty Law Center on Friday called on the University of Illinois to rid itself of "its stereotypical and demeaning mascot, Chief Illiniwek."

Brandon Wilson, head of the center's college outreach program, said the center's position was released in anticipation of a vote by the UI Board of Trustees in March on whether to retire the longstanding athletic symbol of the institution.

Program targets dating abuse

SPRINGFIELD – A new awareness campaign is targeting verbal and emotional abuse among college daters in an attempt to stop what can turn into a lifelong cycle of dangerous relationships.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Verizon Wireless launched the campaign at the University of Illinois Springfield campus Tuesday and are finalizing talks to expand it to the Champaign-Urbana and Chicago campuses, as well as other colleges around the state.

Abuse allegation nets fine for facility

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Department of Public Health announced Tuesday that it had fined Swann Special Care Center in Champaign $20,000 for allegedly failing to protect residents from sexual abuse.

The center has requested a hearing on the matter and is challenging the fine.

Teachers receive Medicare option

SPRINGFIELD – Teachers who have been working at the same school district since 1986 or earlier may now get the chance to begin paying into Medicare, a contribution teachers hired after that date are already required to make.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed a proclamation last month allowing each of the more than 28,000 teachers affected in Illinois a chance to opt to pay into Medicare.

Clemency for Daniels OK'd by the court

SPRINGFIELD – Former Gov. George Ryan's commutation of Eric Daniels' death sentence to life in prison was valid, even though Daniels never signed his petition for clemency, the Illinois Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Daniels, now 29, was convicted of the 1993 rape and murder of Michelle Davis, a night clerk at the now-demolished Charter House Inn on North Cunningham Avenue in Urbana.