Illinois school report card issued; Serving Those Who Served

2015-2016 Illinois Report Card now available
The Illinois State Board of Education has issued the 2015-2016 Illinois Report Card, the annual report to citizens of Illinois on how each of the state’s schools performed in the most recent academic year. This year’s report has some new categories as well as many that have been included in the past.

The report card offers information for individual school districts, as well as the statewide performance as a whole. Its many categories include graduation rates and college readiness, the number of students who were able to earn college credit through various courses offered to high schoolers, eighth-graders passing Algebra I, district finances, class size, attendance figures for both students and teachers, and many more.

The Illinois Report Card can be found online at

Serving Those Who Served

Friday November 11 is Veterans Day. To mark the day we honor those who served our nation in the armed forces, the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA) has launched the Serving Those Who Served project. Serving Those Who Served is a project to thank those who wore our nation’s uniform by encouraging everyday Illinoisans to participate in a volunteer service project to benefit veterans.

IDVA is reaching out to individuals, civic groups, scout troops and any other interested organization to encourage Illinoisans to take action; anything from volunteering in a VA home to simply writing a letter of thanks to our troops. For more information, visit

Illinois Obamacare premium hikes confirmed
Only a certain number of health insurance companies may sell policies on the Illinois Obamacare exchange, Get Covered Illinois. A series of complicated mandates upon these insurance providers stemming from the federal law have contributed to a situation in which a shrinking number of insurance providers’ products are considered adequate to comply with the law. Obamacare, formally known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA) sets the standards which are required for a plan to be considered compliant. In the case of the more expensive policies, known as Silver or Gold policies, these mandates are particularly strict.

Several Illinois families have discovered that they needed to buy one of these Silver or Gold policies in order to meet their family’s healthcare needs. But the prices for next year’s ACA Illinois healthcare plans, especially those in the Silver category, jumped significantly from this year’s prices. New information gives us statistical evidence of the increases now being seen by Illinoisans, and also displays the size of the challenge facing Illinois residents affected by the increase as they work to deal with this latest news concerning the Affordable Care Act.

Illinois is not the only state being affected by these price hikes. Information from Washington reports that the cost of insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act for next year has gone up by 22%.

Illinois harvest enters the home stretch
Updated crop numbers were reported in late October by the National Agriculture Statistics Service. Overall, the generally dry weather conditions made it more feasible for heavy farm equipment to get to work in mature crop fields throughout the state. This fall’s warmer weather has also contributed favorably to the season’s harvest conditions.

In some parts of the state, damp fields remained a factor. The Illinois Department of Agriculture reported last week that the state’s corn harvest was 83% complete, versus 91% at the same point last year, while the bean harvest stood at 76% done, almost exactly in line with the 5-year average of 77%. Meanwhile, planting season is underway for winter wheat throughout the state, particularly the southeastern region. Winter wheat had been 68% planted as of last week.

Illinois produces a strong pumpkin crop this year
A plant pathologist from the University of Illinois credits favorable growing conditions and the avoidance of disease for this year’s good crop of pumpkins in Illinois. Nearly 90% of the pumpkins grown in the United States for canning or processing are produced within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, an area which includes the western end of the 106th district and surrounding counties. The resulting geographic concentration creates a potential vulnerability to disease for the Illinois plants.

There is good news, however, as this year’s crop report confirmed that the kinds of disease outbreaks which have harmed the Illinois pumpkin crop in the past, such as downy mildew, were very localized this year. Pumpkin consumption usually peaks during the period around the end of October. Not surprisingly, consumption of processed or canned pumpkin hits its peak on Thanksgiving weekend.

Did You Know?
U.S. Route 66, which runs through the 106th district on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles, was completed on November 11, 1926. The 2000 mile highway rolls through Dwight, Odell and Pontiac and includes such historic sites as Pontiac’s Route 66 Museum and Ambler’s Texaco Station in Dwight. It was officially decommissioned as a federal highway in 1977, but still lives on today as Historic Route 66.