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Archive for March 22nd, 2013

Gay Rights Rallies in 160+ Cities, 50 states before Supreme Court Deliberations

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Chicago rally is 5:30 PM, Monday, 3/25/13 at the Federal Plaza

Capitalizing on recent polls showing burgeoning popular support [2] for equal marriage rights, next week gay activists will hold vigils, marches and rallies in all fifty states and over 160 cities on the eve of the Supreme Courts oral arguments about two pivotal gay rights cases.

In Chicago the rally and march, sponsored by the Gay Liberation Network (GLN) and The Civil Rights Agenda, will begin at 5:30 PM, Monday, March 25 at Federal Plaza, Adams and Dearborn Streets, followed by a march to Pioneer Court by the Tribune Building.

On March 26 and 27 the Supreme Court of the United States will hear oral arguments in two cases about the freedom of same-sex couples to marry. These cases – which challenge the constitutionality of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and California’s Proposition 8 – are fundamentally about whether LGBT Americans can enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities as everyone else.

Even if Illinois legalizes same-sex marriage, more than 1100 federal rights and responsibilities associated with marriage would still be denied gay couples here, according to a General Accounting Office study. The primary legislative barrier to this equality is the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by President Clinton, which denies legal equality at the federal level even in states which have legalized same sex marriage, and allows states which do not recognize same-sex marriage to deny recognition of such marriages made in states that do.

To many, DOMA and Proposition 8 blatantly violate core constitutional principles that even conservative, “Originalist” Supreme Court justices, if they’re being intellectually honest, should strike down.

The “full faith and credit clause” of Article V, Section 1, for example, says that states are required to respect the “public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other state,” and should force a rejection, at least in part, of DOMA. If the Court is being honest, the “equal protection clause” of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, requiring that “no state shall … deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” should force a rejection of Proposition 8 and all other state-wide anti-gay laws.

“The reality is that the Court, for all its pretensions and rationalizations of deciding cases based purely upon constitutional principles and precedent, is a completely political body,” said GLN co-founder Andy Thayer. “In the 1990s, all branches of government leaned on anti-gay public opinion to thwart core constitutional principles that should have protected LGBT people. Today, with a massive swing in public opinion in favor of equality, our aim through these marches and rallies is to force the Court to live up to its Constitutional obligations that it heretofore has botched.”

“We have to send a signal to the Court that if it rejects or muddles on equal rights, that it will pay an immense political price, that it will discredit itself as an institution, and that ordinary citizens will reject its legitimacy as an unelected, unaccountable body which has no place in a true democracy. Increasingly, institutions that oppose legal equality for LGBT people are seen as out of step with modern society, if not downright bigoted. Our challenge to the Court is that it can either join such relics, or it can keep in touch with modern society.”

Bipartisan legislation institutes warrant requirements to track Americans with GPS Data

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
WASHINGTON – Recent reports indicate that by the end of 2013 smart phones could account for 70 percent of all mobile phones in the U.S. Each of these cutting-edge devices includes built-in GPS technology collecting more personal geolocation data than ever before. However, the rules governing how law-enforcement can acquire and use this data to track individuals are unclear.
To add to the confusion, courts in different jurisdictions have applied the law inconsistently – with some courts allowing law-enforcement wide latitude for the tracking of Americans through their cell phones and GPS-enabled devices. The Supreme Court’s ruling in the US vs. Jones tracking case in 2012 was consistent with the GPS Act, but several of the Justices noted that a number of questions remain unresolved by the courts, and suggested that it is up to Congress to establish clear rules.
In order to provide uniformity and clarity for the use of GPS data by law-enforcement and to protect American civil liberties in the digital age, a bipartisan coalition led by Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) have reintroduced the Geolocation Privacy and Surveillance Act (GPS Act) in the House and Senate which will require law-enforcement to obtain a warrant before acquiring geolocation information of an American. The law makes exceptions for cases of emergencies or national security, but will extend warrant requirements to acquisition from commercial service providers and covert government tracking devices.
“The GPS Act will modernize our outdated communications privacy laws, which were created before the Internet was even invented,” Senator Kirk said. “Our bill will continue to protect citizens’ 4th Amendment rights against unreasonable search and seizure by requiring law enforcement to obtain a warrant prior to digitally tracking your location. I am proud to join Senator Wyden in this bipartisan effort to help set a clear legal standard to safeguard our digital privacy rights.”
“GPS technology has evolved into a useful commercial and law enforcement tool but the rules for the use of that tool have not evolved along with it,” Wyden said. “The GPS Act provides law enforcement with a clear mandate for when to obtain a warrant for the geolocation information of an American. It also provides much-needed legal clarity for commercial service providers who often struggle to balance the privacy of their customers with requests for information from law enforcement. Finally, it protects the privacy and civil liberty of any American using a GPS-enabled device.”
The GPS Act is supported by technology and civil liberty advocacy groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Computer and Communications Industry Association.
“Cell phones are also portable tracking devices, and the law needs to catch up with technology to protect Americans from the indiscriminant use of this type of invasive surveillance,” said Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel in the ACLU’s Washington Legislative Office. “Police routinely get people’s location information with little judicial oversight because Congress has never defined the appropriate checks and balances. Under the GPS Act, all that would change. Police would need to convince a judge that a person is likely engaging in criminal activity before accessing and monitoring someone’s location data. Innocent people shouldn’t have to sacrifice their privacy in order to have a cell phone.”
“The GPS Act is vital to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans and to set standards that give businesses certainty,” said Ed Black, President & CEO of the Computer & Communications Industry Association. Resolving these critical privacy policies will have a positive impact on stakeholders from customers to investors and help boost a booming sector of our economy.”
Overall the GPS Act:
  • Provides clarity for government agencies, commercial service providers, and the public regarding the legal procedures and protections that apply to electronic devices that can be used to track the movements of individual Americans. The Congressional Research Service identified a lack of cohesion throughout criminal court jurisdictions over what standards and procedures must be met in order for location information gathered though electronic devices to be used in court. This lack of clarity has led to confusion among law enforcement and prosecutors, who waste valuable time and resources litigating and appealing what should be clear cut rules.
  • Requires the government to show probable cause and get a warrant before acquiring the geolocational information of a U.S. person, while setting out clear exceptions such as emergency or national security situations or cases of theft or fraud.
  • Applies to all law enforcement acquisitions of the geolocational information of individual Americans without their knowledge, including acquisition from commercial service providers as well as from tracking devices covertly installed by the government.
  • Applies to real-time tracking of a person’s movements, as well as the acquisition of records of past movements. (Real-time tracking = “Where is John Smith right now?” Acquisition of records of past movements =“Where did John Smith go on St. Patrick’s Day?”)
  • Closely tracks existing wiretapping laws with regard to court procedures for getting a warrant, penalties for acting without a warrant, exclusivity of the authority, authorization without a court order, etc.
  • Creates criminal penalties for surreptitiously using an electronic device to track a person’s movements that parallel those for wiretapping. (Currently, if a woman’s ex-husband taps her phone, he is breaking the law. This legislation would treat hacking her GPS to track her movements as a similar offense).
  • Prohibits commercial service providers from sharing customers’ geolocational information with outside entities without customer consent.

Hershey Felder’s An American Story for Actor and Orchestra opens at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

The limited engagement will be followed by a season of new series of musical productions featuring other artists produced by Felder

CHICAGO, IL—Eighty-Eight Entertainment presents the Chicago Premiere of Hershey Felder’s riveting new production, AN AMERICAN STORY for ACTOR AND ORCHESTRA, which tells the story of Abraham Lincoln’s last day, in a limited engagement at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 North Halsted, opening Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m. The Chicago Premiere follows successful tryout productions in Los Angeles and San Diego.

AN AMERICAN STORY features an original book and score by Felder and will be performed with a live orchestra. Drawing upon the songs of great American composer Stephen Foster (Beautiful Dreamer, My Old Kentucky Home, and Oh Susanna), as well as President Lincoln’s own words, AN AMERICAN STORY is based on true events as seen through the eyes of a simple young man who suddenly found himself at the center of world history.

Set in New York City in 1932, 90-year old Dr. Charles Leale tells his true story as he travels back in time and recounts the events that changed his life forever 67 years prior. Felder stars as “Dr. Leale,” the 23-year-old unknown Union Army medic who was the first individual to reach the presidential box at Ford’s Theatre on the night President Lincoln was shot. Per the request of Mrs. Lincoln, Dr. Leale cared for the President throughout his final hours. AN AMERICAN STORY is based on Dr. Leale’s account, LINCOLN’S LAST HOURS, as well as his original report from 1865, which created an international sensation when it was discovered amongst Lincoln’s papers in Washington, D.C. in June 2012.

Following this Chicago premiere, Felder will present a series of new productions at The Royal George Theatre, including I FOUND MY HORN, an import from the London stage starring Jonathan Guy Lewis (Soldier, Soldier; London’s Burning; Coronation Street). Written by author, journalist and playwright Jasper Reese and directed by Harry Burton, the touching comedy I FOUND MY HORN is the story of a middle-aged divorcee who finds a whole new reason to live by rediscovering his childhood French Horn. THE PIANIST OF WILLESDEN LANE, a critical and commercial success in Los Angeles and Boston, starring pianist and storyteller Mona Golabek, features the true story of her mother, a young concert pianist who survives World War II. To conclude the season, Felder will be creating and presenting a new musical story about fathers and sons entitled LEM, starring Christopher Lemmon as his father, the stage and film star Jack Lemmon.

Hershey Felder is known to Chicago audiences for his productions of GEORGE GERSHWIN ALONE, MONSIEUR CHOPIN, BEETHOVEN AS I KNEW HIM, MAESTRO: LEONARD BERNSTEIN and THE GREAT AMERICAN SONGBOOK SING-ALONG as presented on the stage of Chicago’s Royal George Theatre in the city that Felder will always consider home. Producing AN AMERICAN STORY at Chicago’s Royal George Theatre will allow Felder to recreate elements of Ford’s Theatre in the auditorium itself. Felder is well acquainted with the historic Ford’s Theatre, the site of President Lincoln’s assassination, due to extended appearances there in George Gershwin Alone in 2003 and 2004.

Felder’s other credits include Broadway, London’s West End: George Gershwin Alone (Helen Hayes Theatre, Duchess Theatre). Composers Sonata 1999 -2012 – George Gershwin Alone, Monsieur Chopin, Beethoven, As I Knew Him, and Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein at dozens of theatres across the U.S. and around the world. He performed Monsieur Chopin for the Polish Ambassador to the United States and is the winner of 2007 Los Angeles Ovation Awards for Best Musical and Best Actor for George Gershwin Alone. Compositions include Aliyah, Concerto for Piano and Orchestra; Fairytale, a musical; Les Anges de Paris, Suite for Violin and Piano; Song Settings; Saltimbanques for Piano and Orchestra; Etudes Thematiques for Piano; and An American Story, for actor and orchestra. He has presented worldwide live broadcasts of George Gershwin Alone. As director, Felder premiered Mona Golabek in The Pianist of Willesden Lane at the Geffen Playhouse in April 2012. He has been a Scholar in Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music and is married to Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada.

The artistic team is led by Director Trevor Hay. Scenic Design is by David Buess and Hay, Sound Design is by Erik Carstensen, Costume Design is by Abigail Caywood, Scenic Construction is by Matt Marsden, Lighting Design is by Chris Rynne, and Projection Design is by Greg Sowizdrzal and Andrew Wilder.

The performance schedule for Hershey Felder’s AN AMERICAN STORY is Wednesdays through Fridays at 8 p.m., Saturdays at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Tickets are $60 for performances on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and $65 for Fridays through Sundays. Tickets are now on sale at Royal George Theatre at 312.988.9000. Box office hours are 10 am – 6 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Tickets may also be purchased online at www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

State’s Attorney: Stay Safe During Spring Break

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

A Note from Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney

Even though our Chicago weather indicates otherwise, it is finally the season of spring break. If you and your family are planning a trip this spring, here are a few tips for keeping yourselves safe while enjoying a little rest and relaxation:

  • When you arrive at your destination, put the name and address of your hotel into your phone. Most vacation destinations have numerous hotels that look and sound alike; this will help you direct your cab drivers to the correct location. And since room keycards don’t have the room numbers on them, you should also put your room number in your phone.
  • Also put local taxi service numbers in your phone. This will save time when returning from an excursion.
  • Have fun but stay alert. Resort towns and a party atmosphere can give vacationers a false sense of security. Don’t assume everyone is there just to have fun. Keep an eye on your valuables.
  • When enjoying a night out, remember, you arrived together, you leave together. Don’t let someone from your group leave with someone they just met, not even to just step outside for a moment. Have a plan of a time and location to meet and check in with each other if you do get separated.
  • Before leaving your hotel for a day trip or excursion, study brochures, local maps and ask the hotel staff about your intended destination. Have an idea of how far away and approximately how long it will take to get there and back and what you may need to bring with you, such as additional money, food, drink, etc.
  • While a big goal of spring break for many is getting tan, be smart. Stay hydrated (with water) and use sunblock. Don’t ruin your trip by suffering from dehydration or severe sunburn.

Just a few common sense tips can help make your trip fun and memorable.

Stay safe!

Anita Alvarez

Cook County State’s Attorney

Black Bloggers Connect & Codeblack Films present the “Free Angela” Blogging Contest in honor of Angela Davis with $1000 Grand Prize

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Nationwide (BlackNews.com) — Black Bloggers Connect(TM), the leading social network for Black bloggers, has teamed up with Codeblack Films to launch The “Free Angela” Blogging Contest. Codeblack Films is a division of Lionsgate Entertainment, distributor for the highly anticipated film, “Free Angela And All Political Prisoners”. The film was written and directed by award-winning filmmaker Shola Lynch. “Free Angela” is produced by Shola Lynch, Carole Lambert, Carine Ruszniewski and Sidra Smith. The film’s executive producers are Jada Pinkett Smith with Overbrook Entertainment and Shawn “JAY Z” Carter’s Roc Nation. Presented by BET Networks, the film will open in select AMC theatres on April 5th 2013.

The film focuses on the events that propelled Davis into the national spotlight after she joins the Communist Party, protests with the Black Panthers, and becomes a lead spokesperson for the up-and-coming prison reform movement. Davis was then falsely accused of being involved in the murder of a judge in 1970. Afraid she will not receive a fair trial, Davis flees California and is placed on the FBI’s 10 Most Wanted list.

Two months later she was captured in New York City. Consequently, the “Free Angela” movement ignited. She endured a two-year legal battle that eventually leads to her acquittal by an all white jury. Angela Davis has since become a symbol of freedom. Her story of political empowerment and social change still inspires millions around the world.

BlackBloggersConnect.com and Codeblack Films will award $1000 to the blogger that best blogs about why the “Free Angela” film is necessary. The contest runs from March 7th to April 1st. The winner will be announced on April 5th.

“We are very excited about this contest. The story of Angela Davis is an inspiration to all of us and we’re happy to give the opportunity for Black writers, bloggers and journalists to lift their voices in this dialogue of history,” says Jessica Ann Mitchell, founder of Black Bloggers Connect(TM).

View complete “Free Angela” Blogging Contest rules on BlackBloggersConnect.com or http://blog.blackbloggersconnect.com/2013/03/black-bloggers-connect-presents-free.html

About Black Bloggers Connect (TM)
BlackBloggersConnect.com is the leading social network connecting Black journalists & bloggers from over 20 different countries. BBC features articles and news releases from media partners across the US and internationally. The Black blogosphere has emerged as an important voice in issues concerning African descended communities. As a result, Black Bloggers Connect launches national campaigns for events, businesses and efforts of interest to the Black community. BlackBloggersConnect.com is owned and operated by Lamzu Media, LLC which also operates BlackBloggerNetwork.com, NationalBlackPages.com, BlackAdvertising.net. BlackWebseries.com will be launched in the spring of 2013. Gemini Communication (http://www.Wireless.Gemcom.biz) & Renee Rhodd, Lilla Rose Independent Consultant ID # 820833 (www.lillarose.biz/clipartistry) are Junior Sponsors of Black Bloggers Connect. For sponsorship, marketing and advertising inquiries email info@BlackBloggersConnect.com. Twitter: @JoinBBC & @NatlBlackPages

About Codeblack Films


Codeblack Films, a division of Lionsgate Entertainment was launched in 2012 by entertainment industry veteran Jeff Clanagan. Codeblack’s mission is to super-serve the global black community through the development of a diversified portfolio of new media & film content production and strategic acquisitions. Codeblack provides brand strategy solutions to globally recognized celebrities, artists, intellectual property holders and brands operating in the entertainment and sports industries. Codeblack employs a transmedia approach which involves the discipline of leveraging brands and products across multiple platforms, by creating a diversified portfolio of developed content and technology applications with an overarching brand narrative that is then distributed through both traditional and new media outlets. By establishing a single brand narrative that flows from live performance venues to theatrical exhibition houses to TV to web to mobile devices to game consoles, brands and content are strategically leveraged and positioned to benefit from multiple revenue platforms, consumers and fans enjoy a richer experience and stakeholders realize increased value.

Codeblack’s passion is helping its content and brand partners access the power of the $1-trillion African American consumer market. The African American population continues to expand both in pure numbers and in buying power and has a major influence on entertainment, technology and media trends. Codeblack’s analysis and understanding of the social context of this fast-evolving market – values, attitudes, behavior, trends and pre-trends- allow us to position our content and brand partners in the center of influence-and develop the best strategy to maximize benefit.

Official US or Canadian Film Website – https://www.facebook.com/freeangelafilm
Twitter – @FreeAngelaFilm #FreeAngela

What is Augmented Reality? It is Awesome!

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 Comments Off on What is Augmented Reality? It is Awesome!

Soap Box Rants

A WEEKLY COLUMN to CopyLine Magazine

By Pamela Bratcher-McMillan
President, Chair & CEO, of PETAL et al.

I am hooked. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Patrick O’Shaughnessey, Founder and Chief Developer of Patched Reality and other augmented reality developers.

Sequence 01_5If you missed the last PETAL et al. event, “Augmented Reality in Video Games, Box-o-Zombies and More!” you missed something big, I mean big time. The crowd was in awe when Patrick demonstrated his latest developments with technology. They were engaged, lots of laughter, and very active in what was taking place. Audience participants served as players for games demonstrations, music and other software applications.

Although I had read about Augmented Reality and watched some online videos, nothing was more awesome than seeing it firsthand.

Shawn Recinto, Founder and CEO of Immersive Realms and creator of Box-O-Zombies action figures, also shared some cutting edge technology being developed in their labs. The audience looked on in amazement as Shawn and his team demonstrated games they had completed and some they are still working on. One included scanning one of their Box-O-Zombies action figures into the game. The toys and games of the future will be nothing like what we remember from the past. I look forward to seeing what’s next. As an added bonus, every guest received a free Box-O-Zombies from the Immersive Realms team.

Sequence 01_14 (3)If you missed all of the excitement, you’ll have another chance to check out demonstrations from Patrick O’Shaughnessey, and other augmented reality developers on Thursday, May 30, 2013 at 5:30 pm. The crowd response was so great, Augmented Reality Chicago, decided to take the demonstrations to the next level with an open invitation to AR developers in the Chicagoland area to come out and present.
If you’d like to know more about this upcoming event, contact us at PETAL et al. for registration information. Did I mention that this event is free too? Come out and see how augmented reality might enhance your next project.
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National Recording Artist Marvin Sapp to headline free concert featuring performances by Gospel’s brightest stars at House of Hope Saturday, April 27th

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Free Concert and Health Fair aims to raise awareness about stroke prevention and education among African Americans

National Recording Artist Marvin Sapp headlines a free performance alongside some of Gospel music’s most sought-after artists during the Most Powerful Voices Gospel Tour sponsored by the American Stroke Association.

Prior to the concert, the American Stroke Association will sponsor a free health fair at House of Hope featuring health screenings, CPR demonstrations and fitness activities.

The Most Powerful Voices Gospel Tour is an evening filled with inspiring Gospel music along with information to educate the African American community about their increased risk for stroke. Stroke is the No. 3 killer of African Americans and the third leading cause of death in Illinois.

The event will be held Saturday, April 27, 2013, at the House of Hope, 752 E. 114th Street, in Chicago.

The Health Fair will be held 4:30 – 6:30 p.m.

Gospel Concert:

4:30 p.m.to 6:30 p.m. – Health Fair

Gospel Concert: 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Program details include:

• Pastor Marvin Sapp – National recording artist and senior pastor of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

• Salem Baptist Church Choir

• Dr. Damon Arnold – Director of the Public Health Graduate Program at Chicago State University and Adjunct Professor at the University of Illinois College of Medicine. He is also the former director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. He will speak about stroke and African Americans’ heightened risk for the disease.

The event is part of the American Stroke Association’s Power To End Stroke initiative, a national educational and awareness campaign targeted to African Americans. It unites African Americans and encourages them to make an impact on their own health and lower the frequency of stroke within their community.

For more information: www.heart.org/MPVGospelConcertChicago

Producing a workforce in today’s global economy: Can America’s postsecondary education meet the needs of today global challenges?

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

Harvard’s Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr. moderates Symposium supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Created by Black Enterprise answers the question!

Black Enterprise, with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, presents “Today’s Business Crisis: Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce.” The Symposium is part of an educational series aimed to cultivate a conversation between the academic and business communities. The Charlotte Symposium will focus on how postsecondary schools must meet the needs of students of color, and prepare them for careers in corporate America.

The Symposium will be held Wednesday, March 27, 2013, 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. A reception will follow from 5:00p.m. – 6:30 p.m., at The Westin Charlotte, 601 College Street, Charlotte, N.C., Grand Ballroom C, 2nd Floor

Moderator of the forum is Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr., Jesse Climenko Professor, Harvard Law School

One-on-One Conversation: Dr. Ronald Carter, President, Johnson C. Smith

Panel:
* Stephanie Butler, Global Campus Recruiting Executive, Bank of America
* David Dodson, President, MDC Inc.
* Suzanne Walsh, Senior Program Officer, Postsecondary Success, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
* Richard “Stick” Williams, SVP, Environmental Health and Safety, Duke Energy and President, Duke Energy Foundation

Additional Program Participants:
* Derek Dingle, SVP/Editor-in-Chief, BLACK ENTERPRISE
* Mayor Anthony Foxx, Charlotte, North Carolina
* Allan C. Golston, President, U.S. Program, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
* Earl “Butch” Graves, President/CEO, BLACK ENTERPRISE

About Black Enterprise

Black Enterprise is the premier business, investing, and wealth-building resource for African Americans. Since 1970, BE has provided essential business information and advice to professionals, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, and decision makers. Every month, Black Enterprise magazine provides 4.1 million readers with information on entrepreneurship, careers, and financial management. A multimedia company, BE also produces television programming, business and lifestyle events, Web content, and digital media. BLACK ENTERPRISE is the definitive source of information for and about African American business markets and leaders, and the authority on black business news and trends.

Photo Caption: Dr. Charles J. Ogletree, Jr

2013 Financial Profile shows 100 fewer school districts ranked in highest fiscal category

Posted by Newsroom On March - 22 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS

ISBE analysis reflects significant economic strain facing school districts

SPRINGFIELD, IL — A statewide financial analysis shows more than 100 school districts dropped out of the highest financial ranking in the past year and the number of districts in the lowest category doubled, reflecting the significant cuts to the state education budget and decreased local revenues of the past several years. The Illinois State Board of Education’s annual Financial Profile of the state’s public schools was released during its monthly board meeting Wednesday night at a time when state lawmakers are considering further funding reductions after already slashing nearly $900 million from the K-12 education budget since 2009.

“It is no surprise that our analysis shows the harmful effects of multiple cuts to education funding by the legislature. School districts have already eliminated thousands of teaching positions, increased class sizes, delayed facility repairs and so on, all in an effort to reduce expenses,” said Board Chairman Gery J. Chico. “We cannot expect Illinois to remain competitive in a global economy if we continue to shirk our responsibility to children as our schools struggle to make ends meet.”

The Financial Profile provides a snapshot in time that helps ISBE gauge school districts’ financial condition. The profile’s designation categories in descending order are:

  • Financial Recognition: This designation is the highest category of financial strength. A district must receive a score of 3.54 – 4.00. Districts in this category require little or no review or involvement by ISBE unless requested by the district.
  • Financial Review – Districts with a score of 3.08 – 3.53 receive this designation. Districts in this category receive a limited review by ISBE, but they will be monitored for potential downward trends. Staff will be assessing the next year’s school budget for negative trends as well.
  • Early Warning – Districts with a score of 2.62 – 3.07 are placed in this category. ISBE monitors these districts closely and offers proactive technical assistance (e.g., financial projections and cash flow analysis, etc.). These districts are also reviewed to determine whether they meet the criteria set forth in Article 1A-8 of the School Code to be certified in financial difficulty and possibly qualify for a Financial Oversight Panel.
  • Financial Watch – If a district receives a score of 1.00 – 2.61, it is placed in this highest risk category. As with the Financial Early Warning districts, ISBE monitors these districts very closely and offers them technical assistance including, but not limited to, financial projections, cash flow analysis, budgeting, personnel inventories and enrollment projections. These districts are also reviewed to determine whether they meet criteria set forth in Article 1A-8 of the School Code to be certified in financial difficulty and qualify for a Financial Oversight Panel.

The 2013 Financial Profile scores show that the number of districts in Financial Recognition, the highest category, decreased from 670 last year to this year’s 562 or 65 percent of the state’s 865 districts. The number of districts listed in Financial Watch, the lowest designation, increased from 17 last year to 45 this year. Additionally, nearly 13 percent of the state’s school districts are in the lowest two designation categories for 2013 compared to 6.2 percent last year.

A district is categorized based on its Annual Financial Report from Fiscal Year 2012, which ended June 30. The rating is created by using five indicators of financial performance:

  • Fund Balance to Revenue Ratio
  • Expenditures to Revenue Ratio
  • Days Cash on Hand
  • Percent of short-term borrowing available
  • Percent of long-term debt remaining

The 2013 Financial Profile data shows that school districts have been forced to not only reduce expenditures but also increase cash balances by issuing debt or restructuring debt payments.

Reduced state funding appropriations and delays in receiving state and local revenues have all negatively impacted districts’ financial performance.

More Districts Deficit Spending

Districts’ financial pictures are expected to grow even bleaker in the coming year. Information provided by school districts for Fiscal Year 2013 forecasts that the number of districts deficit-spending will increase to 573 or 66.7 percent of all districts, compared to 415 or 48.2 percent in Fiscal Year 2012.

While the Financial Profile alone cannot provide a complete picture of a district’s financial health, it provides a tool for ISBE staff to use with other data and information to assess an individual district’s financial status. This year is the 11th year that the Financial Profile has been used to evaluate districts.

Scores Adjusted for Delayed State Payments

For each year since 2009, the Financial Profile scores have been adjusted for delayed state-mandated categorical payments, such as pupil transportation and special education, due to the state and national recession. The school code was amended to ensure that districts are not designated as being in financial difficulty solely due to delayed state payments. As of this week, the state’s current backlog of bills owed to schools totals more than $634 million.

Meanwhile, districts are also grappling with a nearly $321 million or 7-percent reduction in General State Aid, which supports general local district operations, since 2009. For the last two years, district GSA receipts have been prorated below their claim amounts.

To help ease school district’s financial burden, the Board is asking for an $875 million increase in P-12 education funding for Fiscal Year 2014 over the previous year, a majority of which would go directly to districts through the GSA formula. The Board reviewed the financial profile data Wednesday during their March meeting, held in Belleville.

“The Illinois State Board of Education is simply asking for what is required by law in fully funding General State Aid,” said Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch “While we understand that difficult decisions must be made and that there is a great deal of pressure on the state budget, we are asking the legislature to meet its constitutional commitment. This recommendation is aggressive but desperately needed to provide much-needed financial relief to districts.”

The 2013 Financial Profile reflects how districts are grappling difficult economic times. From 2004 through 2009, the number of school districts in the Financial Watch category declined each year until 2010. That year was the first that the number of districts in the highest risk category increased. The number of districts in Financial Watch decreased once more in the 2011 and 2012 Financial Profiles. This year’s profile, however, saw a 165-percent increase in the number of districts classified in Financial Watch with 45 total.

There are 34 new districts in this year’s Watch category. Of these, five decreased from Recognition, 16 dropped from Review and 13 decreased from Early Warning. Four districts – Bellwood School District 88, East St. Louis School District 189, Maywood-Melrose Park-Broadview 89 and Webber Township High School District 204 – did not submit their Annual Financial Reports. These districts received a score of zero in all categories and were classified as Financial Watch. ISBE staff continues to work with these districts and respective auditing firms in order to receive reports.

For the 2013 Financial Profile of 865 districts, there are:

  • 562 Financial Recognition school districts, based on FY12 revised data, down from 602 in 2008 and down from 670 with revised data in 2012.
  • 191 Financial Review school districts, up from 182 in 2008 and up from 143 with revised data in 2012.
  • 67 Financial Early Warning school districts, up from 59 in 2008 and up from 37 with revised data in 2012.
  • 45 Financial Watch school districts, up from 30 districts in 2008 and up from 17 with revised data in 2012.

Results of the Financial Profile:

FY 12 Financial Profile

Based on FY 11 Revised Data

FY 13 Financial Profile

Based on FY 12 Revised Data

#

%

#

%

Financial Recognition

670

77.3%

562

65%

Financial Review

143

16.5%

191

22.1%

Financial Early Warning

37

4.2%

67

7.7%

Financial Watch

17

2%

45

5.2%

Total

867

100.0%

865

100.0%

The 2013 Financial Profile for all districts in Illinois can be found online at: http://www.isbe.net/sfms/P/profile.htm

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Welcome to CopyLine Magazine! The first issue of CopyLine Magazine was published in November, 1990, by Editor & Publisher Juanita Bratcher. CopyLine’s main focus is on the political arena – to inform our readers and analyze many of the pressing issues of the day - controversial or otherwise. Our objectives are clear – to keep you abreast of political happenings and maneuvering in the political arena, by reporting and providing provocative commentaries on various issues. For more about CopyLine Magazine, CopyLine Blog, and CopyLine Television/Video, please visit juanitabratcher.com, copylinemagazine.com, and oneononetelevision.com. Bratcher has been a News/Reporter, Author, Publisher, and Journalist for 33 years. She is the author of six books, including “Harold: The Making of a Big City Mayor” (Harold Washington), Chicago’s first African-American mayor; and “Beyond the Boardroom: Empowering a New Generation of Leaders,” about John Herman Stroger, Jr., the first African-American elected President of the Cook County Board. Bratcher is also a Poet/Songwriter, with 17 records – produced by HillTop Records of Hollywood, California. Juanita Bratcher Publisher

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