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JB Mask

Dr. Ngozi Ezike will be joining the Governor J.B. Pritzker for a presser at 2:30 p.m. at the Thompson Center.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Wednesday will issue a mask mandate for preschool through high school students and staff statewide and a vaccine mandate for state employees in prisons, veterans homes and other congregate settings as Illinois tries to blunt a fourth spike of the coronavirus pandemic, sources said.

As the fall semester approaches, school boards across the state have grappled with the decision of whether to require masks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week issued new guidelines including a recommendation that everyone wear masks in schools, regardless of vaccination status.

Pritzker, who’s made his handling of the pandemic central to his reelection bid next year, is stopping short of requiring all state workers to get vaccinated but will mandate it in settings where people are in the direct care of the state, including prisons, juvenile detention facilities and veterans homes.

Read more here.

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From District 220:

“At the July 21 special Board of Education meeting, the Board and Dr. Robert Hunt, Superintendent of Schools, thanked the many community members who have reached out through emails, phone calls and public comment at Board meetings to share their perspective on COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 school year. In addition, Dr. Hunt expressed the importance of continuing to work together in order to move forward, and presented the Board with a plan that prioritizes in-person learning and layered mitigations.

To listen to Dr. Hunt’s presentation, click the video link above. You can also click here to view the presentation in PDF format.

The Board did not take any action at the meeting, however based on the discussion, it is anticipated that students in grades PreK-5 will begin the school year wearing masks indoors. The district will add Shield testing to obtain school based data, and develop a matrix which will inform decision making on mitigation strategies throughout the school year. The Board plans to continue the discussion at its next regularly scheduled meeting on August 10.

To date, the following decisions have been made regarding masks for the 2021-22 school year:

  • The district recommends that all students who are not fully vaccinated wear masks indoors, however students in grades 6-12 will not be required to do so.
  • ALL students will not be required to wear masks outdoors.
  • Masks will be required on buses for students and staff, regardless of vaccination status (per the Centers for Disease Control Order for Public Transportation).
  • Staff who submit proof of vaccination will not be required to wear masks indoors.

In addition, the district will have many mitigation strategies in place at all schools for the 2021-22 school year.

Click hereto view the 2021-2022 mitigation strategies

It is important to note that the CDC, IDPH and Lake County Health Department are leaving mitigation decisions up to local school districts. However, IDPH and the Lake County Health Department fully endorse the recent CDC school guidance and collectively support universal masking. Barrington 220 will continue to receive support and input from the Lake County Health Department, but the health department will not formally approve any Lake County school district plans. In addition, the district anticipates that IDPH will be releasing updated guidance for schools in the near future, which may impact these decisions. Barrington 220 continues to recognize the importance of flexibility, as guidance can quickly change based on public health data.”

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220 7.13

At the often intense Barrington School District 220 school board meeting July 13, 2021, district parents and other stakeholders showed their support for the district not mandating students wear masks in school. (H. Rick Bamman / Pioneer Press)

The Barrington School District 220 board announced Tuesday night that the district will not require students in grades 6 through 12 to wear masks when they return to school next month for the new academic year, and will further discuss a phased-in approach to eliminate face covering requirements for students in pre-K to fifth grade.

Board members also agreed the district would not require masks to be worn outdoors for any students. Masks, considered personal protective equipment, were previously mandated by federal and state public health officials in all public places as a result of the novel coronavirus – and it’s COVID-19 disease – pandemic.

“I believe it’s time to return risk management back to parents,” recently-elected school board member Katie Karam said at the meeting Tuesday night. She started the discussion and was cheered by the audience.

The almost four-hour board meeting Tuesday saw more than 100 people in the audience, some often shouting at board members and demanding that no masks be required of students for the new school year. A few young school children held up “Follow the science: Unmask the kids” signs from Unmaskthekidsillinois.org, a grassroots organization started in Winnetka whose supporters are collectively “concerned with how local mask mandates were adversely affecting their young children,” according to its website.

Some SD220 parents who spoke during the public comments portion of the meeting shared data they said demonstrates that younger children are not at risk of catching COVID-19.

“We’re here today to end mask mandates for the upcoming school year and make sure that unvaccinated adults and children are not discriminated against in our district,” said Danny Olsen, who has three children enrolled in district schools and was among more than 30 who spoke during the meeting.

Read the full Barrington Courier-Review take on Tuesday’s meeting here.

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220From District 220:

“At the July 13 Board of Education meeting, the Board discussed COVID-19 protocols for the 2021-22 school year. Barrington 220 will implement a full five day/week return to in-person learning for all students. The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently adopted the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) guidance for schools as it relates to mask requirements and social distancing. Key takeaways include:

  • Masks should be worn indoors by all individuals (age 2 and older) who are not fully vaccinated.
  • At least 3 feet of physical distance is recommended between students within classrooms, but not if this would be a barrier to in-person learning.

With these recommendations in mind, D220 administrators presented the Board with four options regarding masks for the 2021-22 school year. Those options included:

  • Universal masking for all students and staff
  • Masking for non-vaccinated students and staff
  • Phased masking
  • Masks optional for all students and staff

While it is recommended by the CDC and IDPH that unvaccinated students wear masks in school, the Board decided that students in grades 6-12 will not be required to do so. In addition, ALL students in grades PK-12 will not be required to wear masks outdoors.

The Board requested that district leaders develop a plan for students and staff that is based on mitigation efforts and public health data. The plan will recommend an approach that phases out masks when students in grades PK-5 are indoors. The Board will hold a special meeting on Wednesday, July 21 to review this plan. The meeting will be held at 6:30pm in the Barrington High School auditorium. Board policy 2:230 requires those speaking during public comment to identify themselves by first and last name and limit comments to three minutes. It is important to note that the district is making decisions based on current public health data and that these decisions are subject to change based on community spread.

Barrington 220 encourages all families to review the recommendations set forth by the CDC and IDPH. The district will continue implementing mitigation measures such as cleaning and disinfecting of school buildings, proper ventilation in all buildings, encouraging people who are sick to stay home, encouraging proper hygiene and maintaining social distance. ”

If you wish to watch last night’s four hour meeting, the video can be found here,

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JB GerrymanderingThis decade’s redistricting process in Illinois has been marked by stumbles and self-serving partisanship.

The COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the Census Bureau from providing the detailed count of populations needed to accurately apportion districts of equal population, as required by the state and federal constitutions. But the Illinois General Assembly went ahead anyway, drawing predictably partisan maps.

Despite his repeated promises to veto any partisan maps, on June 4 Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed both the gerrymandered legislative and judicial maps lawmakers sent to his desk.

Legislative map

The Illinois Constitution establishes deadlines for the General Assembly to pass a plan for redistricting their own districts. Members must pass a plan by June 30, or the responsibility is delegated to a bipartisan commission made of four Democrats and four Republicans.

If that commission cannot approve a map with five votes by Aug. 10, a tie-breaking ninth member is chosen at random from the names of one Democrat and one Republican by Sept. 5. The expanded commission then has until Oct. 5 to file a redistricting plan approved by five members.

With the complete census numbers delayed until mid-to-late August and the tabulated numbers not available until the end of September, Illinois Democrats are left with a choice: draw the maps in the General Assembly without the complete census data, or let constitutional deadlines pass and send the redistricting responsibility to a bipartisan backup commission, and ultimately to a 50-50 chance of a Republican tiebreaker. The Democrats chose to use incomplete data.

Democrats in the General Assembly revealed their proposed maps after working behind closed doors. According to public hearings held on those maps, in lieu of complete census data Democrats used data from the 2019 American Community Survey. Those estimates are based on surveys of communities over the course of five years.

Read much more here.

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Gas Tax

When Gov. J.B. Pritzker and state lawmakers doubled the gas tax in 2019, they built in automatic annual increases. The next boost hits July 1. Perfect timing, as Pritzker spends $6 million to ask Illinoisans to take a drive.

Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker is encouraging road trips just in time for drivers to catch the next boost in the state’s gas tax.

The law that doubled Illinois’ state portion of the gas tax also automatically boosts the tax every July 1 based on inflation – a move that saved state lawmakers from the political backlash of voting for future gas tax increases. The gas tax is next set to increase by one-half penny per gallon starting July 1, according to the Illinois Department of Revenue.

The boost will mean the average driver in Illinois will be paying $105.67 more per year than they did before the gas tax doubled.

July 1 will mark Illinois’ third motor fuel tax increase in as many years. Rates doubled to $0.38 per gallon from $0.19 in July 2019, then to $0.387 in 2020 and will hit $0.392 on July 1.

After the last automatic increase in 2020, Illinois’ average gas taxes ranked third highest in the nation. Illinois is one of the few states that charge sales taxes atop all the other taxes and fees, essentially taxing the taxes on a gallon of gas.

Pritzker is currently pushing Illinoisans and drivers from neighboring states to take a road trip in Illinois. The “Time For Me to Drive” campaign is a $6 million initiative aimed at jump-starting state tourism.

Read more from Illinois Policy here.

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Increasing the estate tax would hurt family farms and businesses, drive wealth and investment out of Illinois. Most states are ending their ‘death taxes.’

Many states have moved away from taxing assets after people die because of the harm to family businesses and farms, but a new proposal before state lawmakers would double Illinois’ estate tax.

House Bill 3920 would hike the existing state tax on estates of over $4 million to 9.95% from 4.95%. Unlike neighboring Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana and Missouri, Illinois is one of just a dozen states that still have an estate or inheritance tax. Tax Foundation analyst Katherine Loughead noted, “The top marginal estate tax rate under this proposal would become the highest in the country at 21%.”

While the bill’s sponsors intend the extra revenues to be used to support Illinoisans with disabilities, hiking the estate tax would squeeze family farmers, reduce the accumulation of productive assets, encourage spendthrift behavior, fuel tax avoidance and evasion, and drive wealth to other states.

When someone dies, the federal government taxes the estate by up to 40%. Then Illinois piles onto that with more taxes of up to 16%.

The Tax Foundation notes the harm of estate taxes: “They disincentivize business investment and can drive high-net-worth individuals out of state. They also yield estate planning and tax avoidance strategies that are inefficient, not only for affected taxpayers, but for the economy at large. The handful of states that still impose them should consider eliminating them or at least conforming to federal exemption levels.”

Research shows higher estate tax rates increase efforts to avoid those taxes and reduce wealth accumulation. People employ more complex estate planning techniques that carry economic costs.

Read more from Illinois Policy here.

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BTRO

A partisan political group in Barrington has expressed support for candidates in school and library board races, a move criticized by the League of Women Voters, which says party politics has no place in local elections.

In an email and on Facebook this month, the Barrington Township Republican Organization backed candidates running for the Barrington Area Library, Barrington Area Unit School District 220 and Harper College boards. The candidates also are backed by a political action committee called ACTION, or “Advancing Change Together In Our Neighborhood.”

Vicki Martin, co-president of the League of Women Voters of the Palatine Area, which includes Barrington, called it “a bad precedent.” The nonpartisan group has received several calls from people concerned about this, she said.

The ACTION PAC backs Katie Karam, Malgorzata “Maggie” McGonigal and Steve Wang for the Barrington Area Unit District 220 school board, Josie Croll and Ann Ordway for Barrington Area Library board, and Kelly Dittman for Harper College trustee.

The eight other candidates for the four seats on the District 220 board are incumbents Sandra Ficke-Bradford and Mike Schakleton, and newcomers Erin Chan Ding, Tom Mitoraj, Lauren Berkowitz Klauer, William Betz, Jonathan Matta and Robert Windon. Also running for three open seats on the Harper College board are incumbents Diane G. Hill, William F. Kelley and Nancy N. Robb. And incumbents Denise Tenyer and Jennifer Lucas are also running for two open seats on the library board.

When contacted by the Daily Herald, Republican organization President Peter Kopsaftis said the support for the ACTION PAC came from him as an individual, not the organization as a whole.

“Don’t make things out of nothing,” he told a reporter. “It’s not an endorsement. It’s simply information.”

Read more here.

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“At its Dec. 15 meeting, the Board gave final approval to its share of the local property tax rate for 2020. Barrington 220 collects property taxes from Kane, Lake, Cook and McHenry Counties, and property taxes account for more than 80% of the district’s annual operating revenues.

Based on CPI tax cap limits and capturing new construction in the tax base, the district expects to receive an overall 2.5% tax increase compared to last year, however it is common for school districts to request more than expected in case new construction in the tax base is larger than anticipated. For this reason, Barrington 220 has requested a 4.4% increase to ensure new construction is taxed fairly for all taxpayers. The actual increase will not exceed CPI plus the amount associated with actual new construction. 

Based upon projections, excluding bond and interest, the total expected tax revenue for 2020 is $129,637,470.”

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Barrington Area Unit District 220 has a plan for a return to hybrid learning Jan. 19, citing revised guidance from the Lake County Health Department and the anticipation that the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for educators sometime next month.

The Jan. 19 date accounts for keeping schools closed for a period after winter break, as advised by the health department due to expected travel and gatherings, Superintendent Brian Harris told the school board Tuesday night.

An online petition asking for Harris’ firing and/or resignation has garnered more than 1,700 signatures, including from outside the district. Harris, who is retiring in June, didn’t return a request for comment regarding the petition.

“The board has received and read the petition,” board President Penny Kazmier said Wednesday. “I understand that these COVID times have been very difficult on everyone, but Dr. Harris continues to have the support of the board of education.”

The board spent five evenings in the last two weeks meeting with superintendent candidates and feels “really good” about the interviews, Kazmier said. The new superintendent is expected to be named in early 2021.

Read more of the Daily Herald report here.

Related: “D220 to offer families choice to participate in Hybrid or Distance Learning starting Jan. 19

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