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Illinois Enters Race to the Top Competition for New $70 Million Grant PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Katelyn Tye   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:55

Funding Would Boost Early Childhood Services Statewide and Ensure Better Coordination and Excellence

SPRINGFIELD – October 20, 2011. Governor Pat Quinn announced today that Illinois submitted an application to the federal “Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund,” which is worth $70 million in early childhood education funding and would significantly improve the coordination and quality of early childhood services in Illinois. The application was submitted to the federal Department of Education as part of the $500 million dollar competition. As a large state, Illinois would be eligible for up to a $70 million award.

Illinois’ comprehensive application aims to build on Governor Pat Quinn’s strong emphasis on early childhood education by developing a more unified approach to supporting young children and their families. The funds would help ensure that Illinois children enter kindergarten with the necessary skills and knowledge for success.

“The best long-term economic plan Illinois can have is a solid education system that prepares our children for a 21st century workforce,” Governor Quinn said. “This proposal gives our state an opportunity to increase access to quality early learning and development programs and to help serve many more children from low income families in high quality programs.”

The collaborative multi-agency grant requests funds to expand and intensify initiatives the Illinois State Board of Education, the Department of Human Services and the Department of Children and Family Services currently fund in communities of high need. Home visiting, child screening and assessment, and family support services would be enhanced based on the latest best practice to positively impact the development of children early in life. The U.S. Department of Education will announce awards later this year for states that are leading the way with ambitious, achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive early learning education reform.

The  Illinois State Board of Education has proposed new Early Childhood rules that would require any school district that offers kindergarten- half or full day- to administer the Kindergarten Individual Development Survey, or KIDS, starting in the 2014-15 school year.

KIDS will provide comprehensive information about children’s developmental competencies over time and inform whether Illinois’ kindergarteners have the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in school. Additionally, ISBE proposes to share information about its preschool programs in a rating system already used for childcare programs registered through the Illinois Department of Human Services. The Board will review public comment and make a final decision on these proposals next spring.

“Investing in early childhood programs and collaborating with other state agencies to benefit young children is one of the most cost-effective strategies for improving education and our economy,’’ said State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico. “I’m confident that Illinois’ history as a state with strong early childhood programming makes us a perfect candidate to earn this grant and develop practices that can be used in Illinois and replicated around the nation.’’

IDHS currently administers the voluntary Quality Counts Quality Rating System for child care centers and homes operating full day. The Governor's office and state agencies listed above will work together over the next four years to dramatically expand the rating system to include part and full day, school and center-based early learning and development programs and all licensed child care. Part day programs will include Illinois' Preschool for All programs and federally funded Head Start programs. The expanded 5 Star system will have state facility requirements and quality criteria that must be met for programs to be at a Star Level.

If Illinois is successful in receiving the grant, funds will support extensive professional development resources and coaching opportunities for early learning and development program providers to aid them in achieving higher Star levels.

Illinois’ “Early Learning Challenge Fund” application is designed to provide consistency and ensure improvement in the quality of programs offered through state funds by focusing on educational and developmental components, family support and staff competency. Through greater inter-agency collaboration, Illinois aims to offer a coordinated system of high-quality early learning and development services available, particularly for children and families considered to be at risk.

For more information about the Illinois Early Learning Council and to view Illinois’ application, visit


Safe Kids Releases First-of-Its Kind Halloween Research Study PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Craig Cooper   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:53
Twice As Many Child Pedestrians Are Killed While Walking on Halloween

Quad Cities – Safe Kids Quad Cities shares the newest research report on Halloween safety to Quad Cities area; a key finding showing that only one third of parents talk to their children annually about Halloween safety. This is a first-of-its kind study on Halloween-safety, which was commissioned Harris Interactive to conduct a poll of 935 parents with children ages 12 and younger to assess their knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to Halloween safety.

“Given children’s limited attention spans, repeated and consistent messages about safe behaviors are key to preventing injuries,” says Keene Hart. “By following the basic safety tips provided by Safe Kids, Halloween can be a fun and safe night for children of all ages.”

On average, twice as many child pedestrians are killed while walking on Halloween compared to other days of the year. On this potentially dangerous night of the year for child pedestrians, Safe Kids Quad Cities strongly recommends that parents prepare children to behave safely and for drivers to take extra precautions.

While most of the parent participants in the study have talked to their children about Halloween safety at some point, many have not made it an annual conversation. Safe Kids Quad Cities urges parents to engage in repeated discussions with each child, every year to reinforce safety messages and safe behaviors because of the risks they face on Halloween.

According to the study, 40 percent of parents allow their child to use one or more unsafe item on Halloween such as a mask, loosing fitting clothing, and / or a sharp object – any of which could contribute to falls, burns or pedestrian injuries. These are preventable hazards that could be avoided by following Safe Kids Quad Cities safety tips.

Another key finding of this report shows twelve percent of children five years of age or younger are permitted to trick-or-treat alone. Not only should these young children be accompanied by an adult, but it is also recommended by Safe Kids that no child under 12 years of age spend Halloween night navigating the streets unsupervised. This recommendation was made to protect children who often lack the maturity and cognitive ability to make appropriate decisions to accurately judge speeds and distance.

“It is alarming to hear that children ages five years and younger are trick-or-treating without adult supervision,” added Keene Hart. “If they are old enough and mature enough to trick-or-treat without an adult, parents should make sure children go out in groups and stick to a predetermined route with good lighting.”

In preparation for Halloween, Safe Kids Quad Cities will team up with Walk This Way program sponsor FedEx to provide kids with reflective materials to promote visibility, including zipper tags that can be attached to costumes and trick-or-treat bags, as well as important safety information to children, parents, and drivers. The Halloween study was made possible through funding provided by FedEx.

To ensure a safer celebration of Halloween, Safe Kids Quad Cities and FedEx recommend the following tips to parents and caregivers:

Trick-or-Treating Safety:

  • Children under 12 should trick-or-treat and cross streets with an adult.

  • Always walk on sidewalks or paths. If there are no sidewalks, walk facing traffic as far to the left as possible.

  • Cross the street at corners, using traffic signals and crosswalks.

  • Decorate costumes and bags with reflective tape or stickers and, choose light colored costumes that fit properly and avoid carrying sticks, swords, or other sharp objects.

  • Check treats for signs of tampering before children are allowed to eat them. Candy should be thrown away if the wrapper is faded, torn, or unwrapped.

What Drivers Need to Know:

  • Slow down and be especially alert in residential neighborhoods. Children are excited on Halloween and may move in unpredictable ways.

  • Anticipate heavy pedestrian traffic and turn your headlights on early in the day so you can spot children from greater distances.

  • Remember that costumes can limit children’s visibility and they may not be able to see your vehicle.

  • Reduce any distractions inside your car so you can concentrate on the road and your surroundings.

A Behind the Scene Look at the Asian Carp PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Narveen Aryaputri   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:49

October 27,  2011

2nd Floor of  the Moline Commercial Club

1530 Fifth Avenue.  Moline. Illinois.

by Michael Grady, Export Manager at Schafer Fisheries, Thompson, Illinois,

will present why the newest species of carp in America is the most misunderstood fish in America.
Denigrated as inferior and invasive by the media, the Asian carps are in fact delicious, nutritious and an excellent low calorie alternative to hamburger in the American diet.

7.00 p.m. at the The Moline Commercial Club

1530 Fifth Ave. Moline.

Light refreshments, wine and beverages are served.

The event is free and open to the public, doors open at 6.30

Independent Scholars' Evenings are sponsored by The Institute for Cultural and Healing Traditions, Ltd. a 501(c)3 at state and federal level since 1996. tel.# 309-762-9202

Legislation to Strengthen, Update Whistleblower Protections Clears Committee PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:47

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today said that legislation to strengthen and update the Whistleblower Protection Act unanimously passed the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Grassley is one of the primary authors of the bill, known as the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act.  The bill was introduced on April 6.  The legislation is sponsored by Senator Daniel K. Akaka of Hawaii and is cosponsored by Grassley along with Senators Susan Collins of Maine, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Carper of Delaware, Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Jon Tester of Montana, Mark Begich of Alaska, Ben Cardin of Maryland, and Chris Coons of Delaware.

"Whistleblowers come forward when it isn’t easy.  They risk their livelihoods to bring the truth to light.  Yet, they are often vilified by their supervisors and coworkers for doing the right thing and revealing fraud, waste and abuse in the federal government,” Grassley said.  “Moving the bill through committee is a step in the right direction, but further improvements, like adding timelines for the Attorney General to address FBI whistleblower retaliation cases, are necessary to make sure these cases don’t languish at the Justice Department, as two have for more than 5 years."

The legislation would:

  • clarify that “any” disclosure of gross waste or mismanagement, fraud, abuse, or illegal activity may be protected, but not disagreements over legitimate policy decisions;
  • suspend the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals sole jurisdiction over federal employee whistleblower cases for five years;
  • extend Whistleblower Protection Act coverage and other non-discrimination and anti-retaliatory laws to all employees of the Transportation Security Administration;
  • clarify that whistleblowers may disclose evidence of censorship of scientific or technical information under the same standards that apply to disclosures of other kinds of waste, fraud, and abuse;
  • codify the anti-gag provision that has been part of every Transportation-Treasury Appropriations bill since 1988;
  • allow jury trials under certain circumstances for a period of five years;
  • provide the Merit System Protection Board with authority to consider and grant summary judgment motions in Whistleblower Protection Act cases for a period of 5 years;
  • clarify that employees protected by the Whistleblower Protection Act may make protected classified disclosures to Congress using the same process as Intelligence Community employees;
  • establish protections for the Intelligence Community modeled on existing whistleblower protections for FBI employees;
  • establish a process within the executive branch for review if a security clearance is allegedly denied or revoked because of a protected whistleblower disclosure;
  • establish Whistleblower Protection Ombudsmen to educate agency personnel about whistleblower rights; and
  • provide the Office of Special Counsel with the independent right to file “friend of the court” briefs, or amicus briefs, with federal courts.

A long-time advocate for whistleblowers, in addition to co-authoring the 1989 whistleblower law, Grassley sponsored changes made in 1986 to the President Lincoln-era federal False Claims Act to empower private sector whistleblowers.  Since the 1986 amendments were signed into law, the False Claims Act has brought back more than $27 billion to the federal treasury, and has deterred even more fraudulent activity. In 2009, in coordination with Senator Patrick Leahy, Grassley worked to pass legislation to shore up whistleblower protections in the False Claims Act that had been eroded by the courts after years of litigation by defense and healthcare contractors.

Grassley is also the author of legislation that would give whistleblower protections to employees in the legislative branch as provided already to employees of the executive branch of government. He recently won approval of an amendment that would give whistleblower protections to employees in the judicial branch.  The amendment was added to a bill considered in the Senate Judiciary Committee.


Rescuing Forgotten Futures: A National Conversation on the education of students in foster care. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen Chuck Grassley   
Tuesday, 25 October 2011 12:40
Today, as Congress begins the long anticipated overhaul of the nation's education policy known as No Child Left Behind, one vulnerable group of students – too often left out of the debate -- will roar into its center.

In an effort to focus attention on the unlocked potential of these students, the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) and Fostering Media Connections (FMC) held a “National Conversation” on foster care and education, linking policymakers in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles with researchers in Chicago and teachers and former foster youth in Sacramento via webcast. The conversation during this unprecedented nationwide event mirrored the themes detailed in “Rescuing Forgotten Futures,” an Action Guide released by CCAI and FMC today, which outlines how everyone from citizens to policymakers can help improve educational outcomes for foster youth.

"Every foster youth deserves a high quality education with an academic mentor and the opportunity to stay in his or her school of origin. With the Senate education committee rewriting the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this week, it is important that they include provisions that ensure school stability for foster youth," said Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA), who joined the “National Conversation.”  "I have long fought for the right of children in foster care to get the quality education every child deserves, and I will continue to advocate for them to receive the support and guidance they need to have a chance to succeed in the future."

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who co-chairs the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth alongside Sen. Landrieu, pointed to the importance of the “National Conversation” in finding answers to the challenges students face in foster care.

“A major issue for young people in foster care is how difficult the system makes it to stay in the same school.  A child might get a new foster placement that’s only a few miles away from where he’s been but have to switch schools because of school district rules.  Finding a way to avoid this upheaval needs to be a policy goal at every level of government.  Discussions like this one can help encourage the debate and bring about a meaningful response,” Sen. Grassley said.  “School life offers valuable opportunities for kids to make healthy, lasting connections, and young people in foster care would benefit tremendously from the chance to do so, especially given the challenging and even painful uncertainty so many of them face elsewhere in their lives.”

For 26-year-old Derrick Riggins, who grew up in foster care and now works on Capitol Hill after working as a CCAI Foster Youth intern, this was especially true.

“Education is one of the most important tools we can provide for children in foster care,” Riggins said. “It is a tool that can be used to open many doors and provide a way out of the child welfare system cycle.”

Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, George Sheldon, pointed to the need for strong inter-agency collaboration between education and child welfare administrations to unlock the very doors Riggins referred to.

“We recognize how critically important educational stability is for kids in foster care, whose lives are already full of disruption, ” Sheldon said.  “We also know that the child welfare system alone can’t guarantee their educational success.  That’s why we are working closely and intensely with our partners at the Department of Education to facilitate the right connections between key state and local agencies to make sure these kids get the consistent and high quality education they deserve.”

Cheryl Smithgall, a Research Fellow with Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, one of the nation’s top institutions in research around children’s issues, joined the “National Conversation,” and made clear that improvement in education is directly linked to educational agencies’ ability to focus attention on vulnerable students.

“To the extent that policymakers are interested in the underperformance of schools, they need to be interested in vulnerable children,” Smithgall said. “Research shows that early developmental and educational experiences are critical to later educational success.  As we contemplate child welfare and education policies and attempt to foster greater collaboration between the two systems, we need to think about how best to expose vulnerable children and their parents to high-quality developmental and educational supports as early in their lives as possible, and how to keep those supports in place when transitions occur in their lives.“

Indeed, an amendment addressing the educational needs of students in foster care is expected to be included in Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee’s deliberations, indicating that this sensitivity to vulnerable children will help drive the priorities of the national education debate: the potential in these young people is an undeniable American resource.

The fact is that every day that we allow the educational needs of our foster youth to go unaddressed, is another day of lost potential for our country,” said Kathleen Strottman, executive director of CCAI. “My experience with these youth makes me confident that they are our future doctors, lawyers, business entrepreneurs, and political leaders.  Their voice in today's conversation is but one example of how ready they are to lead us into the future.”

The "National Conversation" also featured Rep. Karen Bass, a former Sacramento teacher who is dedicated to improving the lives of foster youth; Jetaine Hart, a former foster youth and educational mentor for students in foster care; and Derrick Riggins, Madison Sandoval-Lunn, and Christina Miranda who are CCAI Foster Youth Interns. The event was webcast from Consumnes River College in Sacramento, home to the Enriched Scholars Program which is helping dozens of foster youth succeed in community college. Advocates hosted viewing gatherings across the country including Washington, West Virginia and Massachusetts.


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