- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 26, 2016

July 24, 2016

The (Bloomington) Pantagraph

Politicians perfectly happy with status quo

A judge’s ruling on Wednesday placed another hurdle in the way of Illinois voters electing their representatives, instead of politicians picking their constituents.

The battle now moves to the Illinois Supreme Court, which is being asked to rule quickly so the issue might still be placed on the November ballot.



Although there are legal issues, the real message here is that a lot of politicians are perfectly happy with the status quo.

Currently, the Legislature basically draws the political maps, meaning the Democrats who control the Statehouse are guaranteed to maintain their majority.

Despite complaining about the system and judge’s ruling, many Republicans are located in comfortable districts and have little or no election competition. They scream, but take little real action. The legal challenge that was successful on Wednesday was brought by an ally of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

The result of this gerrymandering has been that most elections for the House and Senate this year are uncontested. That’s not because everyone is happy with the job our politicians are doing. As a group they have overseen the sinking of our state into a financial laughing stock.

Cook County Circuit Judge Diane Larsen ruled that citizens clearly have a right to try and amend the constitution to change this situation. But then she ruled the proposed amendment couldn’t be placed on the ballot because it also involves changing the roles of the Illinois Attorney General’s office and the Supreme Court justices. The duties of those offices, she ruled, cannot be changed by amendment.

But it’s a Catch-22. Those offices already are involved in legislative elections, so in order to change the redistricting process the roles of those offices have to change.

The decision illustrates how difficult it is for Illinois voters to change the Constitution. Strike difficult; it’s virtually impossible.

Collecting the necessary signatures and having them verified is one obstacle, but the legal interpretations of the Constitution have turned into an insurmountable wall.

The Independent Maps movement argues in their appeal to the Supreme Court that the framers of the state’s Constitution clearly intended for voters to be able to change the way legislators are elected. It’s the courts that have turned that intent on its head.

Of course, the General Assembly could pay heed to its constituents and place redistricting reform on the ballot. Instead, our politicians play games. During the last session, both the House and Senate approved different measures disguised at redistricting reform. Since the same wording wasn’t approved by both chambers, nothing gets on the ballot.

It’s now up to the seven justices on the Supreme Court to right this wrong. They should hear the expedited appeal and their ruling should be on the side of voters, instead of protecting the jobs of elected officials.

___

July 22, 2016

Sauk Valley Media

High school PARCC exam won’t be missed

Students being giddy about not having to take a test?

We fully understand the feeling.

Educators being giddy about not having to administer a test?

That’s a fairly new one for us.

But that was the general feeling among area school administrators upon hearing the news last week that the Illinois State Board of Education had dropped the unpopular PARCC exam for high schoolers.

PARCC, which stands for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, was described as a “nightmare to administer” that had no bearing on college entrance.

High schoolers therefore were less likely to take the testing process seriously, and it showed.

The first round of PARCC test results, released in December an astounding half year after the exams were administered, showed that only one-third of students statewide met or exceeded expectations, while two-thirds didn’t.

Ouch!

Many area school districts scored below the state average, and educators decried the exam as having minimal value for high school students.

Grade-schoolers will still take the PARCC, but high schoolers will now take the SAT exam, as decreed by the State Board of Education.

The SAT exam has been around for a long time. Students will be able to send their scores to college admissions offices, so they will be much more motivated to do their best.

That’s good.

We still believe the goal of the PARCC exam - to satisfactorily assess career and college preparedness - is laudable.

We wrote in a December editorial, “If PARCC doesn’t exactly hit the mark, educators, parents and students shouldn’t discount what it is trying to do - help produce students who are better prepared for their futures.”

However, the test’s inaugural year - especially the 191-day gap before scores were available - left much to be desired.

We’re reminded of the story about the stressed-out baseball manager who, tired of his inept team’s losing ways, was asked what he thought about his team’s execution. “I’m in favor of it,” he replied.

Illinois educators, frustrated with PARCC, applaud its “execution” - the high school version, at least - and look forward to better results through the SAT. We hope they’re right.

___

July 21, 2016

Belleville News-Democrat

Too much thinking may be bad for voters

Here’s a thank-you going out to Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

ISIS, police shootings, Hillary and Pokemon Go assaults just crowd brains so much and are so overwhelming that the people of Illinois just don’t need something else to concern themselves about. Madigan won a round in ensuring the worries of state government continue to rest on his tiny shoulders.

Madigan’s lawyers, at least temporarily, stopped the Independent Map Amendment from going before voters in November. A Cook County judge on Wednesday accepted the Madigan argument that the Illinois Constitution only allows petition-driven amendments that affect “structural” or “procedural” changes to the legislature.

Thanks to Mike, one less issue to ponder in November but a whole lot fewer choices at the polls in the future.

Here’s Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner’s short-sighted take on the matter: “A stunning two-thirds of incumbents will be running unopposed in November. That’s certainly not because the politicians in charge are doing such a good job in Springfield. It means the system is broken.”

Broken? How can he say that about such a well-oiled Chicago machine?

The map amendment people think voters should have a say in whether Madigan & Co. draw the state legislative districts to protect incumbents, or whether an independent panel should draw maps based on demographics and common interests. They collected 564,000 Illinois voters’ signatures to get the amendment on the ballot and now are pledging to quickly put the issue before the Illinois Supreme Court, where they always expected the issue to be settled.

“Redistricting reform was specifically addressed by the framers of our constitution as a ‘critical’ area for citizen petition initiatives. We believe that the Illinois Supreme Court will side with Illinois voters and not deny citizens the opportunity to vote on this amendment,” Independent Maps Chairman Dennis FitzSimons said.

Bruce. Dennis. Stop fighting Mike. He knows what’s best for the people of Illinois.

Just look at where his leadership has taken us.

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