Lester: Suburban schools' cries about pension contributions prompt Dold to act
Frustration from suburban school districts that have to use big chunks of federal grant money to pay for pensions fueled U.S. Rep. Bob Dold's efforts to change federal education law, I learned this week.
Members of Dold's Education Advisory Council, chaired by Northwest Suburban High School District 214 Associate Superintendent Laz Lopez, told him they have to pay far more to the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System for teachers hired with federal funds earmarked for low-income students than for teachers whose salaries are paid from state or local dollars.
For a federally funded teacher paid $37,000 a year, school districts must send roughly $13,000 to the state to cover pensions, Marcella Zipp, District 214's director of grants and special programs, tells me. Meanwhile, a teacher paid out of local or state funds would cost roughly $2,150 for the school district's share of pension costs.
Zipp says the pension cost often prevents District 214 from hiring teachers to serve poor students who "desperately need the academic interventions."
Why does this happen? Outside of Chicago, the state covers almost the full pension tab for teachers paid with state or local funds. As Illinois' unfunded pension liability has ballooned, the rate schools have to cover for the pensions of teachers paid with federal Title I funds has steadily increased to help make up the difference.
Dold's amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which passed the House, would prohibit states from using federal dollars to pay for past pensions obligations.
However, the measure from the Kenilworth Republican would shift the cost back to the state, whose finances don't seem likely to improve anytime soon.
Did you happen to notice that former College of DuPage President Robert Breuder -- fired by board members last week -- names four board members personally in a federal lawsuit he filed this week? That means he's targeting the personal wealth of Trustees Kathy Hamilton, Deanne Mazzochi, Frank Napolitano and Charles Bernstein for part of the damages he's seeking.
Farewell, City of Destiny. Des Plaines leaders have begun rolling out their rebranding campaign for the city, replacing the decades-old slogan for my hometown with "Good Move."
The branding strategy, developed over the summer by Nashville-based NorthStar Destination Strategies, includes a green logo with a lowercase "d" and uppercase "P" and the slogan "Good Move." City officials say over the next few months, you'll start to notice a new, updated look that represents the city "in a positive light." That includes signage, banners and streetlights throughout the community, as well as some local and regional advertising.
Rebecca Darr, director of Palatine-based WINGS women's shelter, told me and Deputy Managing Editor Diane Dungey that she's gained an unexpected perspective on domestic violence, even after all of her years of work helping abused women. Darr said her sister works with offenders convicted of abuse at a downstate prison and has shared anecdotal insights on men who are working to reform their lives after abusing their loved ones in the past.
Mundelein seminarians have been blogging away in recent days on the Catholic Church's Synod on the Family, the three-week meeting of cardinals in Rome examining church positions on issues including divorce and remarriage.
The statements of Chicago Archbishop Blase Cupich -- who is considered to be Pope Francis' first North American appointee -- have been followed particularly closely.
The Rev. John Kartje, seminary rector, tells me Cupich paid students a visit before he departed and discussed the importance of the synod. He did not, however, tip his hand to the comments he had planned, Kartje said. Cupich made news in Rome for saying the church must respect the decisions that divorced and remarried Catholics have come to in good conscience.
Usually, they're the ones behind the camera. Here's Daily Herald photographer Bev Horne's snap of some of the paper's photography crew on the last day of work for DuPage Photo Editor Scott Sanders, far right. Sanders worked at the paper for more than 40 years. As Editor John Lampinen put it, when Sanders joined Paddock Publications in 1973, Richard Nixon was still in the White House, "The Godfather" had just won an Academy Award, and "All in the Family" was the top-rated show on television. On a personal note, I've greatly enjoyed working with Sanders and wish him the best. Also pictured are Dan White, back left, and Mark Black.
U.S. Rep. Peter Roskam will hold a legislative breakfast at the Holiday Inn in Rolling Meadows this morning -- one of the first local appearances for the Wheaton Republican since he took presidential contender and former Secretary of State and Hillary Clinton to task during the Benghazi hearings, chastising her more than once for reading notes from her staff.
Bus route altered
Huntley Community School District 158 officials have altered a school bus route because they say a 20-year-old man tried to board the bus. Ruben Palacio, who as of Friday remained in McHenry County jail, was charged with disorderly conduct Oct. 16.
Parents had complained that Palacio's home was too close to the route.
Pizza for the soul
I'm sure I'm not alone in recovering from the Cubs' loss, but I was foolish enough to place a wager on the series. I'll be shipping a Lou Malnati's deep dish pizza to a die-hard Mets fan and friend from Queens, New York.