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Yolanda Harrington walks one of her students into Barkstall Elementary in Champaign. Harrington, who had dreams of becoming a teacher, makes $18 an hour and works a second job. She has been a paraprofessional for 19 years.
Courtesy of the Student's Family

Could One Answer To Teacher Shortage Be Right Under Our Nose?

Like most states, Illinois is struggling with a severe teacher shortage. And, also like most states, that shortage is felt most profoundly in the area of special education. There is, however, an army of teacher assistants already on the job. Could they help relieve this shortage?

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Hemp Program Underway In Illinois

Corn and soybean fields as far as the eye can see are the typical sights of summer throughout rural areas of Illinois. But next year, 'fields of green' will take on an entirely different meaning as farmers will soon be allowed to grow industrial hemp.

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Education Desk

The new school year marches on, and so does our weekly roundup.

Tropical Storm Florence closes schools in the Carolinas

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Statehouse

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Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner attempts to reset his campaign with a speech to a small group of supporters. Will it be enough to overcome the 14 percentage points that separate the Republican incumbent from his Democratic opponent, J.B. Pritzker?

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Health+Harvest Desk

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The Illinois Department of Public Health said they are trying to prevent an outbreak of Hepatitis A after several neighboring states have experienced their own.

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Arts & Life

Rachel Otwell / Michael Christensen

A fiddling duo is playing Civil War era tunes on the Old State Capitol plaza in downtown Springfield. Near them is a log cabin on wheels (well, technically it's made of cardboard) with a large ball attached to it - fashioned to look as though it was made of iron or steel, with the words "link on to Lincoln." It's old-timey propaganda created by a contemporary Illinois artist.

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Equity

I miss Bill Cunningham. There. I said it. I miss opening the Thursday and Sunday pages of the New York Times and seeing a whole cross-section of humanity, courtesy of Cunningham's photos, that had become a documentation of how New Yorkers lived and what they wore.

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Illinois Economy

Southern Illinoisan

This fall marks 35 years since Air Illinois Flight 710 crashed.   The commuter service flew to many smaller airports and provided a quick way for travelers to venture across the state.

That is until October 11, 1983.   The plane took off from Springfield, quickly ran into trouble and a half hour later went down in a southern Illinois farm field near Pinckneyville,  killing all 10 aboard.

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Illinois Supreme Court Building
Illinois Supreme Court

Illinois lawmakers remain at odds over how to handle the state's $100 billion of pension debt.  But there's a chance that this spring the General Assembly may finally do something about it.  After years of no major action, there are not one, but two major packages designed to reign in Illinois' retirement costs.  The House and Senate passed competing plans.  Both of them seek to save Illinois money by cutting current and retired government workers' benefits.  But one important group of government workers are being left out of both deals - judges.

Concealed carry debate
Chris Slaby/WUIS

The Illinois House on Friday approved legislation that would let Illinoisans carry concealed firearms. But Gov. Pat Quinn says he'll work to "stop it in its tracks."

The measure is being touted as a compromise by its sponsor, Rep. Brandon Phelps, D-Harrisburg.

"As we all know, after years of debating this issue, it is incredibly difficult, if not darn-near impossible, to come to a middle ground on this issue," Phelps said. "Every legislator on this floor has a different opinion when it comes to concealed-carry policy."

The Illinois House on Wednesday rejected an attempt to take a closer look at the field of psychiatry and its role in shaping Illinois law. The sticking point for some lawmakers was a group backing the proposal.

As the field of psychiatry publishes its first new diagnostic manual in more than a decade, it's been attracting a lot of discussion.

Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr

The Illinois House has voted to raise Illinois' top speed limit to 70 miles-per-hour. Currently, cars and trucks are limited to 65 miles-an-hour on most Illinois highways.

Opponents warned that raising the speed limit would result in more accidents. But the bill's sponsor, Democratic Representative Jerry Costello, from Smithton, says more accidents happen because of vehicles traveling at different speeds — not because of higher speeds.

The Illinois Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in case challenging the state's so-called "Amazon tax." The decision could change the way Illinois websites make money online. Brian Mackey reports.

When you click a product link on a website — like if a blogger links to a book she's reviewing — the blogger can make a deal with the retailer to get a cut of the sale.

Amanda Vinicky/WUIS

Illinois' stack of overdue bills is smaller, thanks to stronger-than expected tax revenues.  But as lawmakers begin finalizing a new state budget, one of the state's chief fiscal officers is cautioning lawmakers to get thrifty.  

Comptroller Judy Baar Topinka's wearing a purple, long-sleeved knit dress.  It's by St. John's, a designer label whose dresses retail for about $800. Topinka brags she got it for $7 at Goodwill.

Schools that have sexual education classes would have to go beyond "abstinence-only" under a measure Illinois legislators sent the governor. The plan seeks to ensure students are getting medically accurate and age appropriate information.

                                                       

The measure does not require schools to offer sex ed courses.

But if they do ... the legislation mandates that middle and high schools include information about birth control.

Senator Linda Holmes is a Democrat, from Aurora:

 Former superintendent Walter Milton’s separation agreement with District 186 violated open meeting laws, according to an opinion by the state’s Attorney General. The previous school board decided to part ways with Milton during the winter before his contract was up. So, the members approved a severance plan worth over $175,000 and agreed to pay health and dental insurance.

http://alertsense.com/Home/AlertSense

Residents in the Springfield area can now sign up to have alerts about severe weather and other emergencies sent right to their phone.

The city received a $10,000 grant to set up the new system.  The money comes through the Illinois Emergency Management Agency, which distributes federal funds to city and county governments for public safety programs and disaster preparedness tools.

Amanda Vinicky

A state pension overhaul backed by government employee unions may save only half of what advocates had promised.  That underscores an ongoing battle between the House and Senate over pensions, with only ten days left in the legislative session.  

 

There's general agreement on this much: that Illinois' public pension systems have $100 billion dollars in unfunded liabilities.  That's a fancy word that basically means "debt."

It's a big number that's getting Illinois in trouble with bond houses and eating into the state's budget.

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Darrell Hoemann

Illinois Newsroom Launches Ask the Newsroom: Election Edition

You want to be an informed and confident voter this election season, and Illinois Newsroom wants to help. Our statewide public media collaboration is delivering you the highest quality information around the Midterm Elections. And you’ll be our guide. We’re launching our Ask the Newsroom: Election Edition project so you can ask us your pressing questions about voting and elections in Illinois. You can submit a question through our submission box and on future Illinois Newsroom stories....

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Featured

Statewide: Fall Enrollment Data; Best State Budget Practices; Return Of the "Wide Awakes"

Statewide, with host Sean Crawford, brings you reports and conversations from in and around Illinois.

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Illinois Issues

PHOTOS COURTESY OF CANDIDATES' CAMPAIGNS

The Attorney General Race: Talk About The Speaker Dominates

Democratic Attorney General Lisa Madigan's decision to not seek re-election after over 15 years in office drew a plethora of candidates to the ballot. The last three standing, Republican nominee Erika Harold, Democratic candidate Kwame Raoul and Libertarian Bubba Harsy, continue to battle it out with just nine weeks until the general election.

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Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman / Released by the United States Marine Corps [Public Domain]

Fake Weed: The Danger And The Appeal

Politics

The attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia want the legal authority to get any communications between President Trump and officials of foreign or U.S. state governments pertaining to his Trump International Hotel near the White House.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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Wilco Guitarist Nels Cline Reclaims Mood Music In The City Of Brotherly Love

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDgMdQqwOsY Nels Cline has earned his place as a guitar hero for our times, with a track record stretching back four decades and a marquee gig with Wilco . But if you mainly associate him with squalls of feedback, you're missing a big part of the picture. "The Avant Romantic" is how Rolling Stone pegged him about a decade ago, in its list of Top 20 New Guitar Gods. And lately, Cline has been focusing his efforts, without pause or irony, on the romantic part of...

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George Walker, Trailblazing American Composer, Dies At 96

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W17alPNaVfY https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YESPKGg0dGA Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, pianist and educator George Walker has died at the age of 96. Walker's death was first announced to NPR by one of his family members, Karen Schaefer. Gregory Walker, the composer's son, said his father died after complications of a kidney ailment Thursday at Mountainside Hospital in Montclair, N.J. Walker's music was firmly rooted in the modern classical tradition, but also...

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