EDWARDSVILLE — Inappropriate and coercive teacher-student relationships would be outlawed under legislation introduced by state Rep. Katie Stuart, D-Edwardsville.
The legislation targets a loophole revealed by reports of a former Granite City teacher’s sexual relationship with an 18-year-old student.
Stuart introduced House Bill 5809 in response to an incident in which a male former teacher at Granite City High School published an online book detailing a reported sexual relationship with a female student, then 18 years old.
The student later obtained a restraining order against the teacher. The teacher resigned and has lost his teaching license. He was cleared of criminal wrongdoing because the student was above the legal age of consent at the time.
“My bill will close what is, honestly, an appalling blind spot in our current state laws,” Stuart said. “No educator should be having this kind of relationship with a student, and no student — regardless of age — can truly consent to this kind of relationship. The risk of coercion is too high, and the imbalance of power is too great.”
Stuart’s bill updates the legal definitions of various sexual offenses to include relationships between a teacher, coach or other school official, with any student – including students over the age of 18.
This would apply to both public and nonpublic secondary schools, and would apply to all interactions regardless of where they take place.
“Keeping students safe in and out of school is a fundamental part, not just of education policy, but of overall public safety policy,” Stuart said. “I plan to energetically pursue passage of this important bill into law as soon as possible.”
PEORIA, Ill. – Area students who choose to read eight additional books on their own this fall semester will be in line to receive a free treat courtesy of state Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, as part of her Fall Book Club initiative “Get Booked Up with Rep. JGB.”
“Particularly in the wake of COVID-19, which impacted a lot of students and limited their ability to traditionally learn, we want to encourage our kids to proactively read more this semester,” Gordon-Booth said. “Similar to the old ‘Book It’ program, we want to motivate our children to visit local libraries, expose themselves to different subjects and develop a new love for reading.”
Gordon-Booth’s office is connecting with local public and private schools to share information about the program, which will be open for students from kindergarten through fourth grades and will run until Dec. 10, 2022. Participating students will be required to keep track of the names of each of the eight books they read, with a parent or guardian asked to verify that their child completed reading.
Parents who are interested can also contact Gordon-Booth’s office at 309-681-1992 or RepJGordon@gmail.com to learn more.
“Expanding your reading horizons at a young age plays an incredibly positive role in development and has lifelong benefits,” Gordon-Booth said. “I know there’s a lot of distractions in this era, but it’s critical that we do what we can as a community to come together and support reading.”
The upcoming general elections are slated to take place on Nov. 8. Here, in Southern Illinois, the 118th district state representative race will occur after the approval of a controversial redistricting plan.
The U.S. Census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by the U.S. Constitution to take place every 10 years. The controversy arises when not everyone in a specific geographic area has been accounted for during the surveying.
The community effects of completing a census survey have massive implications. For example, the government bases its allocation of federal funding in education, public health and transportation based on survey numbers.
The data is also used to determine the distribution of congressional seats to states. Specifically, the data is used to define legislative districts, school district assignment areas, and other important functional government areas.
So why does all of this matter to the 118th district? Before the 2020 redistricting cycle, the 118th district had more cities represented within its boundaries. However, today the district has been nearly shrunk in half. For example, the black community in East Saint Louis was divided into three separate districts under the new redistricting cycle: districts 112, 113 and 114.
The current redistricting cycle has led to several lawsuits alleging racial gerrymandering. That is a process in which district lines are drawn to prevent racial minorities from electing their preferred candidates. Although the 2020 redistricting cycle has been challenged in court, the district lines remain intact.
The Daily Egyptian reached out to candidates in the 118th district state representative race. On one side, you have Democratic candidate Van Ikner and on the other is Republican Paul Jacobs. While we were able to interview Mr. Ikner, Mr. Jacobs could not make himself available for an interview before our publication deadline, due to what his office referred to as prior commitments.
So, let’s provide you with a background of both candidates.
Ikner was initially born in Chicago and grew up there until he graduated from high school and moved to Southern Illinois. He was incarcerated for conspiracy to distribute marijuana, a non-violent offense in his younger years. After his state and federal jail stints, he committed to community activism and started a moving company with his family. Ikner has not had any further encounters with the law since then. He graduated from Southern Illinois University in 2019 on the same day as his son.
Ikner is a newcomer politician who began this path about a year ago when a friend suggested he consider running for office.
“I hadn’t given it any real consideration, especially given the nuances about my experiences that sort of allowed me to disqualify myself early on,” he said. “I had to validate I am the person for this opportunity.”
On the other side of the race is incumbent State Representative Jacobs. He currently represents the 115th district and has been in the position for a year. He served in the U.S. Navy from 1965 to 1971. Jacobs received his doctorate of Optometry and owned an optometry practice in Southern Illinois for 41 years. He also founded the Von Jakob Winery in Alto Pass, from the ground up, 24 years ago.
Our attention now shifts back to the redistricting plan.
When asked about his thoughts on the changes for voters in district 118, Ikner said, “I think that not only made the district more competitive, but I think it is a better reflection of the people in the community. And it’s one of the main reasons I got involved because, for the first time, I feel we not only can compete, but we can win.”
Ikner also recognized the importance of having someone who can fully represent every constituent due to the recent district plan changes.
“If we don’t have a voice that reflects other voices in our community, how can we have a true, accurate perception of being able to be objective,” he said.
The opportunity for Ikner to work with everyone is essential to his candidacy.
“Regardless [of] if you’re a Republican, Democrat, Green or independent, I want an opportunity to represent all of us here in Southern Illinois. I want to bring people to the table to form a power structure that allows us to experience group economics and politics,” Ikner said.
As enthused as Ikner is about the elections within the district, he also recognizes the likely inaccuracy of the census results.
“We can never get an accurate picture of the census when we don’t have everybody participating,” he said.
Ikner said he knew COVID possibly impacted census involvement because, in the past, people were more willing to open their doors, but not during a global pandemic.
Lastly, Ikner implied middle-class constituents would be more willing to fill out a census than economically challenged locals.
“It’s the middle-class and well-off people who actually have time to think about the census. Most people in my neighborhood are trying to figure out how to pay the lights and are off to the food pantry,” he said.
Ikner does not oppose the approved redistricting plan. He views it as an opportunity to bring out more voters. If voters feel they are being unaccounted for, it will hopefully motivate them to vote, he said.
(Editor’s note: The Daily Egyptian will update this story should Rep. Jacobs decide to comment.)
Staff reporter Mannie Henderson can be reached at email@example.com
ELGIN, Ill. – State Rep. Anna Moeller, D-Elgin, continues her commitment to the economic development of her community by highlighting new funding for Kane County and the Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin. The grant money is available across Illinois to local governments and economic development organizations dedicated to bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Working families and businesses are still reeling from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Moeller said. “RISE funding for Kane County and downtown Elgin will be critical for our success in bouncing back from the economic downturn from the pandemic. Our overall economic well-being will depend on an expansive approach such as this funding.”
Organizations which receive grants provide plans that spur economic growth and align with metrics that uplift the communities in a variety of ways such as affordable housing development, commercial corridors to support local industry and quality of life infrastructure.
The Downtown Neighborhood Association of Elgin is eligible for funding for Elgin’s Downtown Central Corridor, while Kane County will receive aid provided they create a plan to study impacts on industry, mental health and broadband access.
“My community knows what it needs to economically recover from the pandemic,” Moeller said. “This new RISE funding helps communities decide what they need and how they can tailor their grants to be as effective as possible.”
Nearly $3.5 million is available to communities across the state. RISE funding is provided by the federal government’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The Research in Illinois to Spur Economic Recovery (RISE) program reimburses organizations and governments for costs associated with their development plans.
EAST MOLINE, ILLINOIS (September 13, 2022)— The new public library in East Moline is a reality, thanks to a crucial state grant delivered by State Representative Mike Halpin.
Rep Halpin (D-Rock Island) joined officials Monday, September 12, at the grand opening for the new East Moline Public Library, which received $2.65 million in state funding.
The $7 million project was able to be completed through a combination of public funding and private donations. Halpin advocated for the state funding in the state’s 2019 capital construction program — funding transportation, school, and other public building projects — and the library grant was provided through the Public Library Construction Grant Act Program.
The new library location at 1523 8th Street in East Moline was donated by TBK Bank. The library features a 125-seat community meeting room, two study rooms, expanded collections, and new access to WiFi and technology.
For Rep Halpin, seeing the library open is fulfilling his promise as a state legislator.
“Our community and our children deserve to have the same access to the resources that libraries provide,” Rep Halpin said. “Bringing dollars back to the community is the most important part of being a state representative.
“It’s great to see a project that is good for the community come together. When we work together, good things happen.”
PEORIA, Ill. – A local lawmaker says there’s a lot of misinformation being spread about the SAFE-T Act, even though some in both parties say change needs to happen.
Democrat State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth says what she calls “right wing extremist MAGA propaganda” about the pending end to the cash bail system in the state is offensive to her.
“As a person who is a survivor of crime themselves, who had a son who was murdered a mile from where we stand today, I take umbrage to the fact that anyone would suggest that either one of us want to see crime in our community,” said Gordon-Booth (D-Peoria), during a news conference Tuesday at Gordon-Booth’s Campustown office, with State Sen. Dave Koehler (D-Peoria).
State’s Attorneys in Illinois, though the Illinois Prosecutors Bar Association, claim more needs to be done to fix the SAFE-T Act. The group claims there’s myriad crimes that the accused could be released from jail while charged with, when they should stay behind bars because they’re threats to the community.
But Gordon-Booth says she just talked to state’s attorneys Tuesday about the matter.
“We’ve been meeting consistently with them, to discuss implementation, to discuss tweaks, clarifications, ways to strengthen certain levels on intent,” said Gordon-Booth. “Those State’s Attorneys on that call today said, ‘We want to eliminate cash bail.’”
The provision of the SAFE-T Act, State Senator Dave Koehler says, would keep the worst criminals behind bars, based on rules the Illinois Supreme Court has put in place. Koehler blames misinformation on election year politics.
“All of the sudden, the right wing is peddling fear,” said Koehler. “Fear is a very big motivator. You scare everybody in to thinking we’re letting out criminals willy-nilly. That’s not true. I want you to read that report. I challenge anybody who is concerned about this to read that report and see the sense that it makes.
CLICK HERE to read the report from the Illinois Supreme Court.
The East Moline Public Library held a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony Monday afternoon for the new Louis E. Woodworth Public Library, downtown at 740 16th Ave., culminating a 13-year process.
Director Laura Long said the renovated bank building (completed at a cost of $7.3 million) opened this past spring, but working with supply-chain issues, they weren’t ready to have a big public ceremony until Monday.
For the project — getting a new library downtown, planned since 2009 — the retired accountant and East Moline native Woodworth gave $1.4 million.
That was a total surprise, Long said Monday, since Woodworth has not lived in the area since his 1951 graduation from United Township High School. Former Mayor Bill Ward is a longtime friend and a huge library supporter, Long said.
"He connected us with Mr. Woodworth and that was very exciting," she said. "We couldn’t have done it without his help."
"He just has really fond memories of growing up in East Moline and coming here," Long said of the former library.
The new building has more than doubled the square footage of the previous library building, with almost 22,000 square feet.
“The community’s generosity has been overwhelming," Long (director of the library for seven years) said. "This is a true holistic endeavor, with support from the state, city, foundations, and most importantly our local philanthropists."
"I hope it can be a model for other cities around the area," she said of the public-private partnership needed to implement the project. The city committed staff time and $350,000 for the renovation.
The library has not increased its staff and is in the process of expanding its collections, the director said. "The big thing for me is that we have more space for people to meet," Long said. "We have chairs and tables and study rooms and meeting rooms, and all that wasn’t available at the old building. We’re really excited for the community to come see us."
‘It takes a village’
Library board president James Hoffman on Monday thanked many people for the project, including TBK Bank president John DeDoncker, who decided to donate the former bank building, "which was the key to our success," Hoffman said. The two-story building (which was added onto) dates from the 1950s.
Long also was instrumental for realizing the building plans, dealing with all the contractors on a daily basis, he said. "The board had a lot of say in it, but let’s face it, she was the one day to day swinging the bat, making people toe the line," he said.
Hoffman noted four board members passed away during the long process.
"It takes a village to do anything, especially when you’ve got a big public works project like this," he said, also crediting the library staff and Friends of the East Moline Public Library volunteer group.
The Illinois State Library gave $2 million toward the project, which also raised $3 million in private donations.
Illinois State Rep. Mike Halpin (D-Rock Island) has kids ages 8 and 10, and even in this digital age of screens, his family values libraries and reading.
"This building is going to allow generations of children to discover that love," he said Monday. "I’m proud to say the state of Illinois was able to contribute $2.1 million from the state library construction grant program. And that combined with the efforts of the city and all the private donations, helped make this possible. It’s truly what public-private partnerships are about.
"It’s working at all levels of government and with the community, to put important public projects together like this," Halpin said. "I’m glad the state of Illinois could be part of that and this community has something very much to be proud of in the years going forward."
Remembering a generous benefactor
Bill Ward, now 88, was high school classmates with Woodworth, and they were caddies together at Short Hills Country Club.
"He had nothing. The family had nothing," Ward recalled. "They lived on 15th Avenue and 10th Street, East Moline, above a business."
Woodworth got a caddy scholarship from Short Hills and went to Northwestern, majoring in accounting and business. He first joined an accounting firm in Cleveland and became very successful, Ward said. When Woodworth was in East Moline, he had three homes — his residence, Short Hills and the public library, the former mayor said.
"That’s where he spent all his time. He came to the library to get warm each night," Ward said, noting his house was two blocks from the old library.
He recommended Woodworth donate to the new library project, though he has no known relatives still in the area. The only times he’s visited were in 2019 and 1979, Ward said.
"He’s still probably on another continent tonight," he said, noting he’s still in regular contact with Woodworth — who still has three literal homes — in Seattle, Palm Springs, Calif., and Paris ("a five-iron away from the Notre Dame Cathedral").
"He’s a very caring individual," Ward said. "Besides the $1,465,000 he donated to this library, that has his name on the top of the building, he was a short, cocky, determined, a mover and shaker in high school, and he’s still that way today."
Woodworth also invested in two East Moline churches, including Ward’s, in recent years.
He was Ward’s first boss at Short Hills, and still donates "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to the Chick Evans Caddy Scholarship Fund at Short Hills, Ward said.
"He still remembers everything here and he was a local boy that made good," Ward said. "He’s donated his heart and his time and his money to East Moline. I appreciate that and I’m sure the community does. He doesn’t ask for any favors."
Ward was on the library fundraising committee.
"This is a beautiful facility; it’s gorgeous," he said of the renovated building. "It’s one of the best in the Quad Cities. It’s a place to come to, relax."
It’s also important to restore and re-use a key building downtown, which went through many bank iterations, Ward said.
"It’s a connection for downtown. I’d like to see more small businesses established here," he said. "I hope East Moline becomes a destination point. We have a lot to offer — we’re a blue-collar community and we always will be. But we also need people to come see us, come visit us."
The new library should help attract new development downtown, Ward said. "It’s an uptick for downtown East Moline and I think it’s a great accomplishment," he said.
The East Moline Public Library hosts over 100,000 patrons per year, and the additions made (including the literal 6,000-square-foot addition to the former 16,000-square-foot bank) created new space that is expected to increase annual attendance by an additional 25 percent.
TBK Bank replaced its old downtown location, with a new $1.5-million bank just next door, at 717 16th Ave., East Moline. For more information on the library, click HERE.