Understanding Illinois: Common Core is Here in Illinois

NowlanAugust 6, 2014

by Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

After five years in the works, the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for American education are here.

Near the end of the 2014-2015 school year, students in Illinois and 40 other states will be tested according to new learning standards. The standards are about what K-12 students should know in English and mathematics at the end of each grade.

By eighth grade, for example, students will be able to do linear algebra and linear functions.

Based on talking with teachers in my locale, I sense that some are confident while others are deeply worried about how things will go in this first year of testing to what most observers consider more rigorous standards. Read More

August Slowdown Lets You Enjoy Your Garden

KimForColumnAugust 6, 2014

by Kim Riedel
Master Gardner

It’s August already? Where has all the time gone? Time seems to be going faster and faster especially when I keep myself busy.

July was a great month in the garden and has really kept me running. Even though the berries have been coming to an end, the peppers were producing, tomatoes were coming in, and the plums have been picked. The thought of moving my aquaponic system out to my garden has crossed my mind, and I am in the process of planning it out; it will be nice to be able to watch the growth of my plants in the system from the sunroom. 

There were some sweet potatoes that started sprouting on my counter so I took them out to one of my raised beds and planted them with the hope that I will get additional sweet potatoes.  Read More

Medicare is Here to Stay

July 30, 2014

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security Dist. Manager Decatur

Medicare went into effect 48 years ago on July 1, 1966. Earlier that same year, Medicare workers went door to door trying to get seniors to sign up. Medicare was not the cornerstone then that it is today, and people did not know whether it was going to work for the long haul.

Now, nearly half a century later, Medicare remains one of the most popular government programs in the nation. 

We can’t see the future, but one thing’s for sure: Medicare is here to stay. Medicare provides health insurance to more than 50 million Americans. Forty-two million are people age 65 and older and the other eight million are younger and have disabilities. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Four-Year Degrees From Two-Year Colleges?

NowlanJuly 30, 2014

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

For the past decade, College of DuPage (COD) president Bob Breuder has been pushing state lawmakers to allow two-year community colleges to offer four-year baccalaureate degrees in technology-oriented fields.

Breuder makes a good case. Expect another push in the next session of the state legislature.

Since Joliet (IL) Junior College became the first such college in the nation in 1901, Illinois has been a leader in the community college movement.

When I was a legislator in the late 1960s, public two-year colleges had dotted the mushrooming suburbs and major downstate cities, covering the whole state.

Today there are 39 community college districts and 48 campuses, enrolling 42 percent of all higher education students in the state.

The two-year colleges have advantages over the older, more traditional colleges and universities. First, many located in population-dense markets, while small colleges often constructed their “Old Main” a century earlier in frontier towns that never blossomed. Read More

Retirement, A Big Decision

July 23, 2014

By Gerald Tilley
Social Security Dist. Manager Decatur

If you believe in going all the way or not going at all, there’s a day to celebrate your extreme ways. July 26 is All or Nothing Day. Not a day for the undecided, All or Nothing Day is dedicated to the idea of making decisions and plunging in. Whether it’s overcoming an agonizing fear, trying something you’ve always wanted to try, or making a big decision and seeing it through, All or Nothing Day is your chance to make it happen.

Read More

Understanding Illinois: Lincoln Embroiled in Ill. Politics, Again

NowlanJuly 16, 2014

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) is a popular tourist attraction in Springfield, with nearly four million visitors going through the turnstiles since its opening less than a decade ago.

The Trip Advisor website notes that nearly 1,300 of 1,400 reviews of the attraction give it the top, “excellent” rating, which is a resounding testimonial. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Ill. Leans Democratic but Still Competitive

July 9, 2014

NowlanBy Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

“Illinois is still a competitive state that leans Democratic in statewide elections,” declares John Jackson, professor of political science at Southern Illinois University, based on a statewide survey he conducted recently.

Jackson says the national perception that Illinois is a deep blue (strongly Democratic) state is belied by the fact that Republicans hold a U.S. Senate seat and two statewide offices (treasurer and comptroller). Read More

What’s The Market Doing?

Bill Bailey, WIUJuly 9, 2014

by William C. Bailey

School of Agriculture
Western Illinois University

If you are around people involved in agriculture, the question “What’s the market doing?” will eventually come up. While there may be variations – “How’s the market?” or “Anything going on in the markets?” the question is really about is price. Prices for corn, soybeans, hogs, cattle, and other commodities of interest to the questioner- and the question is about what those prices are doing. For people involved in agriculture, markets mean price and price is central to agriculture.

Let’s take a look at two markets – soybeans and cattle to answer the question “What’s the market doing?” First, soybeans. Read More

Understanding Illinois: Tea Party Percolates in Princeton

NowlanJuly 2, 2014

By Jim Nowlan
Outside Columnist

In the wake of the recent stunning defeat of U.S. House leader Eric Cantor by an anti-Establishment conservative, interest in the Tea Party has been revived.

I report here on my recent visit with a small, amiable yet determined group of Tea Party activists in Princeton, Illinois, one of about 70 such local groups in the state. I promised to let them define themselves, without my editorial observations. Read More