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News Around Illinois – January 7, 2020

News Around Illinois Cover

Decatur Schools, TA Union Fail To Reach Agreement In Latest Talks

DECATUR – Negotiators for Decatur Public Schools and the union representing its teaching assistants met with a federal mediator for more than three hours Monday night. It was the first bargaining session between the two sides in nearly a month. A statement released by District 61 calls the session “productive,” but says no agreement had been reached. Both sides say they hope to schedule another meeting soon. Negotiations between Decatur Public Schools and its teaching assistants’ union have been going on since last spring. T-A’s went on strike briefly in October, but returned to work after the school district suspended their health insurance. – Jim Meadows, Illinois Newsroom

More Illinois Students Qualify For College Financial Aid

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois is now providing college funding for groups of in-state students who have previously been unable to apply for federal assistance. The new “Alternative Application” is now available for students who are undocumented or transgender students who didn’t sign up for the draft. The application allows those students to qualify for state-funded Monetary Award Program, or MAP, grants. Last year, the program provided students around $450 million worth of financial aid. Gov. J.B. Pritzker has pledged to increase that funding by another $50 million this coming school year. – Sam Dunklau, NPR Illinois

Illinois Congresswoman Concerned About US Assassination of Iranian General

PEORIA – Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Illinois) says she’s concerned about the recent killing of an Iranian general. Last week, President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. Bustos says all she knows about the attack is from the same media reports available to the public at large. She says most lawmakers were kept in the dark, including the so-called “Gang of Eight” composed of congressional leaders who are supposed to be notified before major military actions. Bustos says she’s set to take part in an intelligence briefing on Iran later this week. – Tim Shelley, WCBU News

Champaign County Circuit Judge To Retire In March

URBANA – The judge behind Champaign County’s drug court is retiring. The News-Gazette reports that Circuit Judge Jeff Ford will step down March 25 after almost 35 years on the bench. Ford became an associate judge in 1985, and was appointed as a circuit judge in 2005. Voters approved his retention as a judge three times, most recently in 2018. He’s presided over the drug court for 21 years. Ford is the longest serving of Champaign County’s 11 sitting judges. The News-Gazette reports that state Supreme Court Justice Rita Garman is expected to soon organize a committee to screen possible replacements. – Brian Moline, Illinois Newsroom

Report: 123 Children Died In 2019 Despite Contact With DCFS

CHICAGO — A report highlighting persistent problems within Illinois’ child welfare agency shows 123 children died in the past fiscal year despite having contact with the Department of Children and Family Services. That’s the highest number in roughly 15 years. Of the 123 deaths, 24 were ruled a homicide, 37 were considered accidental, 34 were natural, seven were suicide and 21 were undetermined. The annual report investigates the deaths of children who came into contact with the state agency within 12 months. Released this month, the report covers the fiscal year that ended last June. – Associated Press

World War I Sheet Music Collector Dies

ROCKFORD – A longtime collector of rare sheet music died January 2 after a long battle with Lymphoma. Lee Schreiner donated much of his collection to Northern Illinois University where it found new life. In 2014, the Rockford resident started donating his collection to his alma mater. Librarians at Northern Illinois University created an online database for the World War I sheet music which is now in the public domain. Schreiner was 70-years-old. – Jenna Dooley, WNIJ News

Illinois Will Stop Collecting On Unpaid Red-Light Tickets

CHICAGO — The Illinois comptroller says her office will stop collecting fines against drivers who are ticketed after cameras catch them violating red lights. Susana Mendoza says poor and minority motorists appear to be most affected by the $100 tickets, which can double if not timely paid. She also notes that federal investigators are looking at relationships between some communities and a red light vendor. A 2012 state law allows local governments to use the comptroller’s office to collect debts. Unpaid traffic tickets can be deducted from tax refunds. – Associated Press

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