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College Free Speech

Protesters shout before a 2017 speaking engagement by Ben Shapiro on the campus of the University of California Berkeley in Berkeley, California. New polling finds that America’s college campuses are seen as far friendlier to liberals than to conservatives when it comes free speech. Polling from the University of Chicago and the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research finds that 47% of adult Americans say liberals are free to express their views on college campuses, while 20% said the same of conservatives. (Associated Press)


WASHINGTON (AP) — Americans view college campuses as far friendlier to liberals than to conservatives when it comes to free speech, with adults across the political spectrum seeing less tolerance for those on the right, according to a new poll.

Overall, 47% of adults say liberals have “a lot” of freedom to express their views on college campuses, while just 20% said the same of conservatives, according to polling from the University of Chicago and The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Republicans perceive a stronger bias on campuses against conservatives, but Democrats see a difference too — about 4 in 10 Democrats say liberals can speak their minds freely on campuses, while about 3 in 10 Democrats say conservatives can do so.

“If you’re a Republican or lean Republican, you’re unabashedly wrong, they shut you down,” said Rhonda Baker, 60, of Goldsboro, North Carolina, who voted for former President Donald Trump and has a son in college. “If they hold a rally, it’s: ‘The MAGA’s coming through.’ It’s: ‘The KKK is coming through.'”

Debates over First Amendment rights have occasionally flared on college campuses in recent years, with conflicts arising over guest speakers who express polarizing views, often from the political right.

Stanford University became a flashpoint this year when students shouted down a conservative judge who was invited to speak. More recently, a conservative Princeton University professor was drowned out while discussing free speech at Washington College, a small school in Maryland.

At the same time, Republican lawmakers in dozens of states have proposed bills aiming to limit public colleges from teaching topics considered divisive or liberal. Just 30% of Americans say states should be able to restrict what professors at state universities teach, the poll found, though support was higher among Republicans.

Overall, Republicans see a clear double standard on college campuses. Just 9% said conservatives can speak their minds, while 58% said liberals have that freedom, according to the polling. They were also slightly less likely than Americans overall to see campuses as respectful and inclusive places for conservatives.

Read more here.

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A pile of challenged books appear at the Utah Pride Center in Salt Lake City on Dec. 16, 2021. Attempted book bannings and restrictions at school and public libraries continue to surge, according to a new report from the American Library Association. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

Officials from Illinois’ major political parties are making clear one issue they’ll be taking sides on heading into the 2024 election cycle.

Illinois still has a primary to get through in March. But, heading into November next year, things are expected to heat up. One issue Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias put in the national spotlight during testimony to a U.S. Senate committee this week was that of access to controversial books.

“Tragically, our libraries have become the thunder domes of controversy and strife across our nation, the likes of which we’ve never seen before,” Giannoulias said.

The Democratic statewide official promoted the Illinois measure he spearheaded to withhold taxpayer-funded grants to public and school libraries that he said “ban books.”

“This right to read legislation will help remove the pressure that librarians have tragically had to endure over the last couple of years,” he said.


Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias during a U.S. Senate committee hearing

Giannoulias was read obscene materials* some say should be allowed in school, which he acknowledged was offensive.

Illinois GOP Chairman Don Tracy said he was baffled by the Democrat’s position.

Read more here.

*Senator John Kennedy from Louisiana did not hold back during today’s Senate Judiciary Committee in which there was a hearing on so-called ‘book bans.’

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The books being made available to children in public schools and libraries was the topic of a U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday, with an Illinois law thrust into the spotlight.

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias testified before the committee to explain the legislation. Beginning next year, Illinois will withhold tax dollars from public libraries that limit what types of books are available.

“This legislation is important because both the concept and practice of banning books contradicts the very essence of what our country stands for and what our democracy was founded on,” Giannoulias said.

Republicans have taken issue with the definition of book bans adopted by Pen America, which said books being pulled off the shelves in schools for review constitutes a ban.

“This is not a ban. This is about schools deciding what’s appropriate for school children, and sexually explicit and obscene, pornographic material isn’t appropriate,” U.S. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said.

The hearing took a racy turn when U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Louisiana, read passages from a couple books, including a profane paragraph from “Gender Queer,” which has appeared on Pen America’s banned book list.

“No one is advocating for sexually explicit content to be available in an elementary school library or in the children’s section of the library,” said committee chair U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois. “That is a distraction from the real challenge.”

Read more and view the video here.

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VBH Water

While most Cook County residents have seen property taxes rise, the suburbs saw the biggest hikes during the past 20 years. Chicago homeowners and business owners are feeling less tax pain than their suburban peers.

Property taxes are on the rise in most of Cook County.

The suburbs have it worse than the city, based on 2022 data released by the Cook County Treasurer.

The residential property owners hit hardest were in the south and southwest suburbs, where the average bill went up 127% to $4,917 from $2,170 in 20 years. Businesses owners in the north and northwest suburbs saw 134% property tax hikes, to $28,710 from $12,282. Commercial property tax hikes in the south and southwest suburbs were not far behind.

Tax bills were supposed to come due Aug. 1, 2023, but were just pushed back to Dec. 1. While those bills have grown significantly over 20 years, the changes have been uneven.

CC Prop Taxes

While Chicago has the second-highest commercial property taxes among large American cities, commercial property owners in the suburbs have seen their taxes rise more than double.

Read more here.

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Some Illinois Republicans want public libraries in the state to withdraw from the American Library Association.

Public libraries have been a hotly debated topic in recent months. Illinois became the first state to essentially ban book bans after Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed a law limiting taxpayer-funded grants to libraries that don’t follow the ALA’s policies on prohibited materials.

“We refuse to let a vitriolic strain of white nationalism coursing through our country determine whose histories are told,” Pritzker said. “Not in Illinois.”

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said the governor’s comment is a false narrative of the left because there was never any talk of banning books.

“Nobody is banning anything,” Wilhour told The Center Square. “I have yet to see one of these books that is not still available to be sold and purchased. That’s a book ban. This isn’t a book ban, this is about age appropriate.”

School districts around the country have debated the age appropriateness of books such as “Gender Queer,” which includes images of the main character’s legs covered with blood; blood on the main character’s underwear from an occurrence of menstruation; a blood-covered tampon; a toy vibrator that led to “my first orgasm” as well as two illustrations of young people engaged in oral sex.

Wilhour is part of the Illinois Freedom Caucus, which is calling on public libraries in the state to withdraw from the Chicago-based ALA after their new president proclaimed herself to be a Marxist.

The Freedom Caucus said in April 2022, Emily Drabinski wrote in a Twitter post “I just cannot believe that a Marxist lesbian who believes that collective power is possible to build and can be wielded for a better world is the president-elect of @ALALibrary. I am so excited for what we will do together. Solidarity! And my mom is SO PROUD I love you mom.”

Read more here.

Related:The fine print of Illinois’ ban on book bans,” “Pritzker signs law stripping libraries that ban books from state funding,” “Bill blocking libraries from state funding if they ban books clears General Assembly

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Empty Chambers Springfield

Unions are major political players in Illinois, contributing almost $133 million to lawmakers and then advocating for their preferred policies at the Statehouse.

About one-third of that comes from teachers unions, which frequently take stances that run counter to what parents in the state may want for their children. Teachers unions oppose donor scholarships for low-income children to attend the schools of their choice and lobby against funding for resource officers to keep kids safe in school.

Since 2010, teachers unions have contributed more than $45 million to current lawmakers’ political committees, according to records with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

Of the Illinois General Assembly’s 177 members, 142 of them – more than 4 out of every 5 – have received money from teachers unions.

The Chicago Teachers Union alone has funneled nearly $3 million to current lawmakers.

Teachers unions then lobby those lawmakers on their chosen policies and political agendas. For example, CTU logged support or opposition over 1,360 times on at least 480 bills between 2011-2022, according to data obtained by the Illinois Policy Institute from the Illinois General Assembly.

Political contributions and lobbying give teachers unions a one-two political punch that gives them a big advantage over parents and other residents in the state, who may have different ideas on what’s best for kids.

Read more here.

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Thursday struck down race-conscious student admissions programs at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina in a sharp setback to affirmative action policies often used to increase the number of Black, Hispanic and other underrepresented minority groups on campuses.

The justices ruled in favor of a group called Students for Fair Admissions, founded by anti-affirmative action activist Edward Blum, in its appeal of lower court rulings upholding programs used at the two prestigious schools to foster a diverse student population.

The decision, powered by the court’s conservative justices with the liberal justices in dissent, was 6-3 against the University of North Carolina and 6-2 against Harvard. Liberal Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson did not participate in the Harvard case.

In major rulings last year also spearheaded by the conservatives justices, the court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that had legalized abortion nationwide and widened gun rights in a pair of landmark rulings.

Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority said, “Harvard and UNC admissions programs cannot be reconciled with the guarantees of the Equal Protection Clause,” referring to the U.S. Constitution’s promise of equal protection under the law.

Roberts said that students “must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual not on the basis of race. Many universities have for too long done just the opposite. And in doing so, they have concluded, wrongly, that the touchstone of an individual’s identity is not challenges bested, skills built, or lessons learned but the color of their skin. Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice.”

“At the same time,” Roberts said, “as all parties agree, nothing in this opinion should be construed as prohibiting universities from considering an applicant’s discussion of how race affected his or her life, be it through discrimination, inspiration, or otherwise.”

More here.

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I love reading

You’d almost think Illinois singlehandedly defeated the Nazi Axis based on the comments made by progressive politicians and media about the state’s new ban on book bans. Gov. JB Pritzker signed into law this month. For example:

  • Pritzker said, “Regimes ban books, not democracies,” adding that Illinois refuses “to let a vitriolic strain of white nationalism” determine “whose stories get told.”
  • The Daily Kos began its column with this quote from a German poet, about what it called a “monumental bill”: “Those who burn books will in the end burn people.”
  • The New York Times said the signing of Illinois’ new law “may have opened a new front,” quoting a library association person saying, “there was a huge wave of conversation and dialogue about how important it is that we see governors and that we see lawmakers engaged in this conversation.”

In truth, the book ban “ban” is bunk. It’s absurdly written and impossibly vague. It permits delegation of lawmaking to an unelected national association, stripping local control from libraries. It conflates questions of age appropriateness with censorship. It’s a transparent attempt by the leaders of the cancel culture wrap themselves in the flag of free speech.

Under Illinois new law, public libraries will forfeit state grants unless they either (a) adopt the American Library Association’s library bill of rights or, (b) develop a written statement prohibiting the practice of banning books or other materials within the library or library system.

Let’s first consider what the second option above means, because it’s so empty. A library would be in compliance, if it used that option, if it merely has a written statement “prohibiting the practice of banning books.” What on earth does that mean? Maybe a statement saying no banning at all allowed? Nobody would agree with that. Any “statement” to make sense would have to get into the specifics of what can be banned and why, but the new law says nothing about what those specifics should be.

Read on here.

Related: “The fine print of Illinois’ ban on book bans,”   “Pritzker signs law stripping libraries that ban books from state funding,” “Bill blocking libraries from state funding if they ban books clears General Assembly

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Book Ban

Gov. JB Pritzker signed a measure that will withhold state funds from libraries that ban books. The move sparked a lot of questions.

Illinois this week became the first state in the country to make it more difficult for public and school libraries to ban books.

Gov. JB Pritzker on Monday signed a bill that makes libraries ineligible for certain state grant funding if they don’t adopt the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights, or similar language, that says books shall not be removed from circulation because of personal, political or religious reasons.

Proponents of book bans say they’re trying to protect children from ideas they don’t consider age appropriate or find otherwise objectionable, with some conservatives saying funding shortages could cause libraries to close unless they stock pornography targeting children.

But supporters of the law, like Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias, say book bans “[defy] what education is all about: teaching our children to think for themselves.”

Here are some answers to common questions surrounding the new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Does the new law defund libraries unless they stock pornography?

Much of the pornography controversy comes from a national backlash against Gender Queer, a memoir from Maia Kobabe about growing up gender fluid and the associated struggles. The book has been banned in more than 100 school districts across more than 30 states. Gender Queer includes depictions of sexting, masturbation and drawings of sexual encounters, all of which book ban proponents deem pornography. Supporters of Gender Queer contend access to the book, and others featuring similar topics, in middle or high school can help students with gender identity struggles.

The new law does not mention pornography, and instead directs libraries to follow the American Library Association’s Library Bill of Rights, which also does not define pornography.

Read more here.

Related: Pritzker signs law stripping libraries that ban books from state funding,” “Bill blocking libraries from state funding if they ban books clears General Assembly

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Thirty-two state lawmakers have stepped up their efforts to save the Invest in Kids Act, Illinois’ tax credit scholarship for more than 9,000 students.

The House members, all Republicans, have signed a letter indicating their support for the program, which, as we’ve reported, is in danger of being killed by anti-school-choice lawmakers. Lawmakers will decide this month whether or not to extend the program as part of the budget negotiation process.

Those who’ve signed the letter support the hopes and dreams of the scholarship students from low-income, working-class families. For details of the program, see Empower Illinois’ 2022 Impact Report.

Those who refuse to show their support are effectively giving in to the teachers unions, which strongly oppose Invest in Kids and are actively pushing to end the program (see IEA’s stop vouchers in Illinois).

That refusal includes House Democrats who were asked to sign the letter but wouldn’t. Given Democrats’ lockstep support of the teachers unions, it’s unlikely any would sign anyway.

The refusal also includes eight Republican House lawmakers who have not signed: House GOP leader Tony McCombie, as well as Jeff Keicher, Dave Severin, Charles Meier, Norine Hammond, Wayne Rosenthal, Michael Marron and Amy Elik. (Wirepoints is unaware of any similar letter making the rounds in the Senate.)

These unsupportive legislators should be called out because school choice should be a slam dunk for both Republicans and Democrats. As the WSJ reported Tuesday, “The program is popular with voters. In May 2021, an ARW Strategies poll showed 61% of Illinois voters approved the tax-credit program, including 67% of state Democrats. 71% of black voters and 81% of Hispanics statewide approved of the plan.”

Not to mention, states around the country like Indiana and Iowa are greatly expanding their school choice programs and making them universal.

Read more here.

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