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Simon-supported math bill approved by Senate committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kara Beach   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:51

Statewide curriculum aims to increase college completion

 

SPRINGFIELD – March 27, 2012. Illinois middle and high schools could use a state recommended math curriculum come 2013, if a bill that passed a state Senate committee today with Lt. Governor Sheila Simon’s support is adopted.

 

SB 3244, sponsored by Sen. Michael Frerichs (D-Champaign), authorizes the Illinois State Board of Education to design curriculum models that illustrate how to teach state standards in middle and high school math. Schools could opt to follow the state-recommended scope and sequence of study for math and math equivalent courses through a student’s final year of high school, or continue to follow local curricula.

 

Within four years of the bill’s effective date, the state board and P-20 Council will measure the effectiveness of the statewide curriculum based on test scores and math remediation needs at colleges. The aim is to recommend a standard curriculum that is proven to boost college readiness and reduce the expensive and time-consuming remedial math needs at colleges and universities.

 

“Students learn locally, but they compete globally,” Simon said. “Colleges and employers are telling us that too many of our students are not competing in math. Our goal is to recommend math content and teaching techniques that educators across the state, in all zip codes, can build on so that more of their students graduate from high school ready for college and careers.”

 

In 2011, 42 percent of high school graduates met the math college readiness benchmark, according to ACT. More than one-third of recent high school graduates who transitioned as full-time community college freshmen between 2006-08 enrolled in at least one remedial math course (17,527 out of 48,328 students), according to the Illinois Community College Board. Students who enroll in remedial courses are more likely to drop out or graduate late.

 

Simon said the optional statewide curriculum moves away from simply requiring “seat time” to promoting use of that time wisely. It could be most helpful to teachers in districts that cannot afford curriculum directors or curriculum committees. It will also provide guidance to districts that otherwise rely on textbook manufacturers that claim their materials are aligned with state standards.

 

SB 3244 passed 10-0 and awaits a vote by the full Senate. Simon’s written testimony can be found here.

 

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6 Ways to Cut Your Homeowner, Car Insurance Costs PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:21
Financial Planner Offers Premium Solutions to Gas Price Pain

There is nothing that makes your wallet squeal louder today than pulling into the gas station and dropping $50. Gasoline prices have risen more than 12 percent over the past 12 months, and some experts are predicting they’ll reach $5 per gallon in the next six months.

The average household now spends $50 per month more on gasoline than last year, notes financial planner Rick Rodgers, author of The New Three-Legged Stool: A Tax Efficient Approach To Retirement Planning (www.TheNewThreeLeggedStool.com).

“But that’s not the whole picture,” Rodgers says. “Higher fuel prices affect a lot of other expenses in the family budget, from heating to food. The government estimates the average household is spending $150 per month more this year because of higher oil prices.”

You can try to ease the pain at the pump by using your car less, but you should also look for other places to offset that extra $150. Car insurance is a good place to start.
According to the Insurance Information Institute, the national average auto insurance premium is $850 per year. Can you reduce that? Rodgers says you probably can. He offers six ways:

• Shop around regularly. Your insurance agent doesn’t have a lot of incentive to reduce your premiums.  I recently met a consumer who told me he had been with the same agent for 15 years. After he shopped his insurance with another agent, he saved $1,600 on his premiums for all his coverage. The internet makes it easy compare costs for the same coverage, or you can get an independent insurance agent to shop for you. Contact the Independent Agents Association at (800) 221-7917. (Be sure the company you go with has a good credit rating and claims-paying history.)

• Bundle your coverage. Bundling is combining different types of policies (auto, homeowners, liability, etc.) with the same company. The theory is that the company will discount the premiums if they have all of your business. The most common combination is packaging your auto insurance and homeowner’s policies together.  Or, find companies that will bundle auto insurance with renter’s or tenant’s insurance.  Bundled packages usually result in a 10 to 15 percent savings.

• Ask for discounts. You may qualify for discounts, but you won’t know until you ask. They’re commonly offered for good driving records, anti-theft devices, vehicle safety features (anti-lock brakes, air bags, automatic seatbelts), low annual mileage and insuring more than one car. The spunky Flo from Progressive claims discounts are also available for buying your policy online, paying in full up front, and being a loyal customer.

• Take a defensive driving class. Even if you’ve been driving for years, you can learn a lot from driver education and most insurance companies recognize the value of a refresher course, which can help you avoid accidents. The amount of discount varies by insurance company and from state to state, although most insurers offer a 10 percent discount on your premium for three years.  AARP offers a driver safety program for those over age 50, and it’s available online.

• Increase your deductible. Do your auto and homeowners policies have low deductibles?  If so, you may be able to reduce your premiums 15 to 30 percent by raising the deductible on your collision and comprehensive coverage.  Make sure you have an emergency fund set aside to cover the cost of repairs before you make the change. But your homeowners policy may be the first place to consider raising the deductible, since statistics show the average homeowner files a claim only once every nine years. Be sure to check with your mortgage holder first; some specify maximums.

• Change Cars. This is probably the most difficult savings tip to implement but may have the largest impact on your premium.  Used cars are cheaper to insure than new ones (excluding antiques); sports cars are more expensive to insure than minivans. Insurance companies like cars with safety features and low repair costs.  Insure.com surveyed 900 vehicles in the 2012 model year and lists the rankings from the most expensive to least expensive on their website.  Six of the 10 cheapest were minivans.

About Rick Rodgers

Certified Financial Planner Rick Rodgers is president of Rodgers & Associates, “The Retirement Specialists,” in Lancaster, Pa. He’s a Certified Retirement Counselor and member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisers. Rodgers has been featured on national radio and TV shows, including “FOX Business News” and “The 700 Club,” and is available to speak at conferences and corporate events (www.rodgersspeaks.com).

 
President Bill Clinton to Speak at Opening Dinner of the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Chicago PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Andrew Mason   
Tuesday, 27 March 2012 12:12

World Summit Host Committee announces high-profile moderators

for the three-day peacemaking event this April

 

CHICAGO—The Chicago World Summit Host Committee today announced that President Bill Clinton will take part in the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Chicago this April 23 – 25. President Clinton, a long-time champion of human rights initiatives and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, will keynote the opening night dinner on Monday, April 23 at The Field Museum in Chicago.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Honorary Co-Chair of the 12th World Summit, and Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, Co-Chair of the 12th World Summit, will also address the crowd of approximately 700 guests.

“Chicago is honored to be the first North American city to host a summit of Nobel Peace Prize winners and we’re honored to be joined by former President Bill Clinton,” said Mayor Emanuel. “President Clinton has worked tirelessly around the world to improve lives, resolve conflicts, and bring prosperity. His commitment to justice and dignity for all people has made him a global leader in the fight for equal rights for all.”

“The people of Illinois are proud to welcome leaders who have done so much to champion freedom and human rights around the world, especially President Clinton,” Governor Quinn said. “It is my hope that this gathering will inspire others to take up the cause and make a difference in their country, their business and their community.”

The Chicago Host Committee also confirmed a number of high-profile personalities set to moderate the six panel discussions with the Nobel Laureates during the event, including:

  • Chris Jansing, anchor and host of “Jansing and Co.,” MSNBC
  • Jim Frederick, managing editor, TIME International
  • Jim Wooten, senior correspondent, ABC News
  • Doug Brinkley, contributing editor, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times Book Review and American Heritage

The World Summit, themed “Speak Up, Speak Out for Freedom and Rights,” will feature moderated discussions with Nobel Peace Laureates in front of a live audience and webcast around the world, providing a rare opportunity for audience members to observe and engage the world’s most notable figures in a discussion on global peace and human rights.

A list of Laureates participating in the 12th World Summit in Chicago is available at: www.nobelsummitchicago.org/laureates

The World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates is internationally recognized as among the most important annual events in the field of peacemaking, attracting Nobel Peace Laureates and high-profile leaders and organizations from around the globe. The Summit is organized by the Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates on a yearly basis in partnership with a host city.

The World Summit is chaired by the former Soviet President and Nobel Peace Laureate Mikhail Gorbachev and co-chaired by former Mayor of Rome, Hon. Walter Veltroni. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel will serve as the Summit’s Honorary Co-Chair. The Chicago Host Committee is co-chaired by Illinois Governor Pat Quinn; Chris Kennedy, chairman of Joseph P. Kennedy Enterprises; Kerry Kennedy, president of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights; Terry Mazany, president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust; and Michael Sacks, CEO of Grosvenor Capital Management and vice chairman of World Business Chicago.

For more information on the 12th World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates, please visit www.nobelsummitchicago.org. Follow the Summit on Twitter at @nobelforpeace and on Facebook at facebook.com/nobelforpeace.

 

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The Permanent Secretariat of the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates together with the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights, The Chicago Community Trust, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, City of Chicago and World Business Chicago are collaborating to organize the 12th World Summit. For a full list of sponsors, please visit: www.nobelsummitchicago.org/supporters

 

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Braley Statement on the Killing of Trayvon Martin PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Jeff Giertz   
Friday, 23 March 2012 14:12

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today regarding the killing of Trayvon Martin:

"The killing of 17 year old Trayvon Martin in Florida last month is a tragedy which shocks and dismays me. My family’s thoughts and prayers go out to his family.

"The authorities have the responsibility and duty to pursue this matter until justice is served.  Trayvon Martin and his family deserve nothing less."

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Communal Living Attracting More 60-Something Women PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Ginny Grimsley   
Friday, 23 March 2012 13:51
Author Says Women are Choosing to Age
with the Support of Friends

Some say the ‘60s hippies are going back to the commune. Others call the growing number of female Baby Boomers rooming together “‘The Golden Girls’ phenomenon.”

Author Martha Nelson, who at 65 is on the leading edge of a tsunami of retiring Boomers, says it’s really all about choosing the company of friends.

“As a group, we’ve been empowered more than past generations of women,” says Nelson, whose debut novel, Black Chokeberry (www.BlackChokeberryTheBook.com), is the story of three disparate older women who unexpectedly end up sharing a home. “We’re more worldly, stronger, financially savvy and healthier than our ancestors – through no fault of their own – and we know what we want.”

Increasingly, what they want is to actively age with the camaraderie, laughter, understanding and support of other women who share their ideas of healthy lifestyles, good food from their own gardens, green living, and myriad activities on a moment's notice.

In 2010, 480,000 Baby Boom women lived with a least one unrelated female, according to an AARP analysis. The growing number of U.S. HomeShare programs, which help connect people interested in sharing a house, say their numbers have been steadily rising since the economy belly-flopped.

“This concept is really trending on the East and West Coasts and is very big in Europe,” says Ryan Cowmeadow, vice president of the National Shared Housing Resource Center, an all-volunteer clearinghouse of HomeShare programs.

“Our numbers are up about 15 percent since 2007, and about 75 percent of applicants are female,” he says.

“We’re hoping to see a real surge with the Boomers entering retirement age now. They’re the ones who didn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Home-sharing just makes sense.”

Nelson notes that there are several reasons why women more than men are gravitating to communal living as an alternative lifestyle.

“Women typically live longer than men, and men are more likely to remarry quickly after a divorce or the death of a spouse,” she says.

“And fundamentally I think it’s as much about the special bonds women share. We form these wonderful, supportive, 'tell the truth' friendships, which survive the demands of husbands, children and careers. Whether living alone or with a spouse or partner, women cling to their friendships. When a woman considers living alone as she ages, it's a natural progression to seek the company of her best friends."

That’s what happened to Nelson, a former journalist and educator, whose long marriage ended in divorce when she was in her 50s. In regaining her balance as a single woman, she sought time alone to heal, then turned to her trusted friends as she stepped back into life. Her happiest moments came from long conversations over coffee, laughter over meals and movies, and, occasionally, indulgent tears she felt safe to shed.

"I came to fully understand the importance of women friends in my life," she says. "They are the gold standard and as we age, they are critical to happiness, regardless if one is married or in a committed relationship."

The movement for cohousing – where residents have private living spaces but share common areas, such as dining rooms, and tasks, such as cooking -- started in Denmark and is catching on in the United States. There are model programs in Boulder, Colo., and other communities, including three cohousing projects being planned in the greater Nashville area, where Nelson lives.

Practical considerations of creating close living communities include health and safety, care in times of an accident or medical emergency, and saving money, a concern for many women who find themselves single or widowed after long marriages, Nelson says.

But Boomers are renowned for demanding more than creature comforts from life, she adds.

“We want to be happy; we’re healthy, active and we want to enjoy ourselves as we age. We want to travel, go to a movie with a neighbor or housemate, cook a meal, share a garden, and feel that we are contributing to our communities.

“What started with Rosie the Riveter has brought us to this,” says Nelson who is happily married again, but fascinated by the new movement of cohousing.

“We’re strong women and we can choose to live the way we want as we get older. Very often, that will mean with other women in close knit communities."

About Martha Nelson

Martha Nelson is an award-winning former investigative reporter, columnist and editor at two New York newspapers. She also is a former educational and nonprofit executive, consultant, and chef. She retired in 2010 and settled in to write Black Chokeberry, a coming-of-age novel about three women confronting crisis and change on the other side of 50.

 
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