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Opinion | Belleville News-Democrat: Given a choice, who picks a failing school for their child?

This editorial ran in the Oct. 7, 2017, edition of the Belleville News-Democrat:

So you thought Illinois lawmakers made a deal on the school funding formula? Well, think again.

The Republican votes needed to pass the school funding bill and get checks mailed to the school districts were earned through compromise. A major part of that compromise was a $75 million experiment in helping bring private school scholarships to more youngsters trapped in failing public school districts.

Up to $75 million in state tax credits will be offered per year for five years to those who donate to private school scholarship funds. Those scholarships are then targeted to the neediest students, giving their parents an alternative to public schools.

Teachers' unions, specifically those in Chicago, began wailing immediately. They detest anything that gives parents a choice because they know that when given a choice the parents are unlikely to choose them.

Enter state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood. She introduced a bill Monday that would essentially undo the private school tax credit by delaying it until public school spending increased by $350 million — a remote, unlikely goal in a state with $15.2 billion in overdue bills.

It's pure coincidence that educators and teachers' unions donated $406,000 to the Chicagoland Democrat's campaign funds during the past decade.

Democrats and Republicans finally figured out how to work together, but now a Democrat is reneging? Can you ever again trust one of Madigan's minions?

Offering someone a tax credit for a donation is very different than school vouchers. Teacher unions perceive a threat, but the reality is this is a limited experiment to introduce some choice into an education environment that really needs aggressive competition.

Tax dollars are not being taken from public schools and following the students as in a voucher program. These are private donors choosing to donate towards private school educations with the potential to better educate those youngsters and boost their chances of being deeply connected to their community through faith and personal attention.

Translate that as young employees who, when given a choice, are less likely to take their careers and taxes outside of Illinois.

And compare that to the job performed by Chicago Public Schools, where they spend 25 percent more per student to produce fewer than one-third ready for college. Statewide nearly half of the students are college ready.

A deal is a deal. If you cannot be trusted, then expect voters denied school choice to exercise legislator choice.

Voice of the Reader: I stand for the anthem

To the Editor:

When I stand to the National Anthem, I am proud to be an American citizen, blessed to be born in the land of the free and home of the brave. To remember the price the American soldiers gave their lives for freedom isn't free without a sacrifice.

The national anthem about the United States of America has always united the American people to be proud of the nation of God that was birthed in 1776.

Not to stand up and respect the National Anthem is racism. Dividing the United States of America is the New World Order plan of Socialism, Fascism and Communism. If the people who don't want to stand up for the national anthem where they have made millions of American dollars from, then they need to leave the country.

The National Anthem — love it or leave the country!

Remember, united we stand up for the national anthem and divided we fall if we don't stand up for the national anthem!

Being Christian American citizens is the greatest blessing and being born in the United States of America is a blessing from the God of Israel and Jesus the Savior, Messiah of the world!

George Culley


Opinion | Voice of The Southern: Thumbs down to I-57 fatalities; thumbs up to Parker

Thumbs down to the continued loss of life on the section of Interstate 57 between Mount Vernon and the Interstate 24 junction. A 57-year-old O’Fallon man was the latest victim. He died Tuesday when his car was sandwiched between a pair of trucks at a construction zone at the Illinois 148 exit. The stretch of highway is littered with construction zones, but that isn’t unusual for an interstate. What’s more, that section of I-57 has few curves and is relatively flat, making the number of fatal accidents even more confounding. It’s a trend that needs to be reversed soon.

Thumbs up to Southern Illinoisan reporter Molly Parker for winning the Associated Press Media Editors’ Community Journalism Public Service Initiative award. Molly accepted the award in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday. She was honored for her work, exposing the horrid living conditions and mismanagement of the McBride and Elmwood housing projects in Cairo. While the newspaper is justifiably proud of her work, the true importance of Parker’s reporting is that a national spotlight has been cast on a problem that festered entirely too long. Parker’s stories have drawn national attention and, hopefully, will improve the lot of Cairo and its citizenry.

Thumbs up to the restoration of Hickory Lodge in Carbondale. Now the home of the Carbondale Park District and Keep Carbondale Beautiful, the building was once the residence of the Thomas Martin Family. The home, believed to be a kit sold by Sears and Roebuck, was donated to the Carbondale Park District in 1978. The building provides a perfect home for the park district. “There’s no street noise, there’s kind of a sense of privacy here that I think just helps for communication when you’re trying to do some creative problem-solving,” said Kathy Renfro, executive director of the Carbondale Park District. “This seems to be a much different atmosphere than … some of the more institutionalized meeting rooms that so many of us are just accustomed to."

Thumbs up to U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin for his visit to Cairo this week. Durbin talked to seventh-graders at Cairo Junior/Senior High. While he didn’t have any good news regarding the fate of the city’s housing projects, Durbin reinforced an important lesson for all Americans. “You can make a difference,” Durbin told the students, who gained national attention last school year after they wrote letters to Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson following HUD’s announcement it would be demolishing two housing developments in Cairo. “You are just as important as anyone else.”

Thumbs down to the State of Illinois for continuing to spin its wheels in processing unpaid bills. A recent review by the Associated Press indicated that nearly half of the state’s $15 billion in unpaid bills hadn’t been sent to Comptroller Susana Medoza’s office as of late June. The age of bills is important because many that are 90 days or older face a 1 percent-per-month late-payment fee; about $5.5 billion of the current $15.9 billion backlog is subject to the penalty. Mendoza estimates the state will ultimately pay $900 million in late-payment fees on the existing pile of debt.

Thumbs up to Tammi Craig of Ruma and the work she does with Gunners Run Rescue. Craig has been rescuing dogs in the small Randolph County Community for 13 years, often spending her own money to care for injured animals. “Anybody can do what I do if you just have that passion and commitment. If everybody just picked that one thing they are passionate about … and they just did one little thing it would make the world a much better place,” she said.