Senator Holmes greets rescue beaglesABC 7 Chicago - April 19, 2016 | Original article

By Associated Press

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- Furry, four-legged lobbyists visited the Illinois State Capitol to support legislation that would require research dogs and cats a chance at adoption.

Beagles rescued by the Beagle Freedom Project appeared Tuesday with their rescuers in favor of legislation introduced by Republican Rep. Margo McDermed of Mokena and Democratic Sen. Linda Holmes of Aurora. The bills are HB4297 and SB2356.

The measure would require labs - particularly at universities and other tax-supported facilities - to work with organizations to give animals have a chance at adoption rather than being euthanized.

Beagles are often used in research because they're docile and small.

The plan has no enforcement mechanism. Supporters say it would rely on labs to identify healthy animals eligible for new homes.

For more information about the Beagle Freedom Project, visit http://www.bfp.org/.

Read the full article at ABC 7 Eyewitness News.

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Aurora Beacon-News - April 16, 2016 | Original article

A section of Illinois 31 in North Aurora was renamed Saturday to honor Army Spc. Christopher Patterson in a ceremony attended by about 250 people, including Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Patterson was 20 years old when the Humvee in which he was riding struck an explosive device in the Kandahar Province of Afghanistan on Jan. 6, 2012, killing him and three other members of the 713th Engineer Company on board. The West Aurora graduate was a member of the Indiana National Guard.

State Reps. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora; Stephanie Kifowit, D-Oswego; and Mike Fortner, R-West Chicago; and state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, attended the event, as did North Aurora Mayor Dale Berman.

Holmes said she did not know Christopher Patterson personally but that did not diminish her "debt of gratitude" for the ultimate sacrifice the young man paid for his country.

"For families, the loss never goes away," Holmes said. "There will always be an empty place at the holiday table, and the hole in their hearts can never be filled, especially for a young man whose life shone as brightly and as honorable as Christopher's," Holmes said.

Read the full article at the Aurora Beacon-News.

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My students discover state’s school funding math doesn’t add up

Chicago Sun-Times – April 13, 2016 | Original opinion piece

By Joseph Matuch, 6th grade math teacher at Simmons Middle School

Gov. Bruce Rauner, seen here speaking at the Old State Capitol on Wednesday, has proposed increasing state funding for education by $55 million to bring it to 100 percent of the per-student "foundation level" required by state law. AP Photo/Seth Perlman)    

Gov. Bruce Rauner, seen here speaking at the Old State Capitol on Wednesday, has proposed increasing state funding for education by $55 million to bring it to 100 percent of the per-student "foundation level" required by state law. AP Photo/Seth Perlman)
Joseph Matuch

As a math teacher, I’m always trying to figure out real-life applications for my lessons. For example, when I teach about percentages, we talk about grades, retail sales …  and school district funding.

I really didn’t expect that last one to go over so well. But my sixth graders surprised me.
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I started by explaining that school districts get funding from local, state and federal sources. (A few eyes glazed over.) Then, I told them that because the State of Illinois couldn’t give school districts all of the money required by state statute, state officials decided to withhold 11 percent from what they had promised each district.

I asked my students if that seemed like a fair way to handle the situation, and the class consensus was yes.

That’s 11 percent withheld from our East Aurora district, yes, but also 11 percent withheld from West Aurora, 11 percent withheld from Indian Prairie, 11 percent withheld from St. Charles, and so on.

But then I gave my students this word problem: “Our district receives about $100 million each year from the state, and a neighboring district receives about $7 million. Find 11 percent of each of those numbers.” As students calculated their answers, suddenly 11 percent didn’t seem very fair anymore.

“We lost $11 million?”

“They didn’t even lose $1 million!”

“That’s unfair!”

My students were hooked; they wanted to do something about this, and I was in teacher heaven. The best teaching moments are the ones the students create.

I gave them the option of writing a letter to a senator or state representative. If any student did not want to, I had other work prepared for them to do; it’s important that (as teachers) we give students the choice to take a stand. Most of mine did.

My students and I reviewed how to write a letter, and I assigned each one a local state representative or senator to write to. My lesson was turning out to be a home run, yet I felt conflicted. I couldn’t help feeling disappointed in our state for providing such a sad, practical application.

When school districts lose funding, students ultimately are the ones who suffer.

In my district, 90 percent of students come from low-income households. We rely heavily on funding from the state, and when it doesn’t come, our administration needs to make difficult decisions.

The discussion goes from “What can we do?” to “What do we cut?”

Over the past four years, we’ve lost $36 million due to cuts. To put that in perspective, it cost less than $10 million to buy the land and building for our new kindergarten and renovate it.

Imagine what we could have done with $36 million!

All in all, my lesson took less than 90 minutes, but students continued to learn from it long after.

State Sen. Linda Holmes wrote a letter back to every student who had written her one. It made their days, and mine, to know that the letters had been received and read.

Though I teach math, students learn much more in my class. They learn to write, think critically, and advocate for themselves. You can help them by visiting http://www.d131.org/fixtheformula.

See the original opinion piece here.

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Feb. 22, 2016 - Kane County Chronicle | Original article

by Ashley Sloboda

GENEVA – For everyone who bad-mouths the state legislature, Kane County Board member Brian Pollock wants them to know that the lawmakers do good as well.

Thanks to their support, two bills passed last year are expected to annually bring in about $3 million to Kane County, Pollock said Monday during the Kane County Legislative Committee Breakfast.

“They did do a lot,” he told the crowd, which included state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora; state Rep. Steve Andersson, R-Geneva; and state Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, D-Aurora. “We do appreciate it.”

Holmes, a former County Board member, said she misses county government because of its ability to accomplish items. She said she doesn’t see the state budget impasse ending any time soon.

“We are no longer functional,” she said of Springfield.

Read the full article here.

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