September Media Tips - Metropolitan Planning Council

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September Media Tips

State Forces Schools to Absorb Costs of Meeting New Graduation Standards

To better prepare students for college and the workforce, Joliet Township High School District 204 recently adopted high school graduation requirements consistent with new state standards set forth by Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s Higher Standards, Better Schools act. However, to fully comply with the new mandates, Dist. 204 and other districts across Illinois will need significantly increased funding from the state than they are currently receiving.

“Raising graduation requirements has a direct financial effect on school districts,” said Dist. 204 Supt. Paul Swanstrom. “Most will need to extend the length of the school day or reduce or eliminate elective programs in order to offer new standard courses.”

To prepare students to meet more rigorous graduation requirements, Dist. 204’s solution was to lengthen the freshmen schedule by one period, allowing students to take enrichment classes in math or reading, or an elective, depending on the individual’s needs. Staffing the new “Freshman Academy” required hiring about 20 new employees, and the additional period of instruction increased the cost of the freshman program by some 17 percent. And Dist. 204 is not alone in bearing increased costs to meet the new requirements.

“More than 80 percent of Illinois high schools currently do not meet the state’s new graduation requirements, yet the state continues to under fund its schools to the tune of $1,240 per student,” said Bindu Batchu, A+ Illinois campaign manager. “If we are to hold our schools to higher standards, we must provide them with the funding they need to support both basic educational expenses and these new requirements.”

For more information, visit

A+ Illinois contact: Bindu Batchu, Manager, A+ Illinois, 312.863.6014,
Contact: Paul Swanstrom, Superintendent, Joliet Township High School District 204, 815.727.6970 or

CHA and Citywide Partners Must Focus on Smooth Move-Ins, Self-Sufficiency

In its most recent update on the Chicago Housing Authority’s (CHA) Plan for Transformation, the Metropolitan Planning Council (MPC) spotlights the increase in investments related to resident services and the need to ensure comprehensive and coordinated programs to advance resident self-sufficiency. The Council also urges CHA to publish periodic information on the progress of its service provision strategy.

Just past the 10-year Plan’s midway point, Chicago already is witnessing the results of bricks-and-mortar redevelopment. Residents of new mixed-income communities are moving into affordable, public housing, and market-rate units, as many other quality homes near occupancy. But attractive buildings alone will not build healthy homes and viable neighborhoods.

In its most recent CHA Plan for Transformation Update, MPC recommends the CHA strengthen the system of support services to public housing residents; carefully coordinate services to avoid gaps or duplication and ensure smooth resident transitions as they move from one location to another; and qualitatively assess service providers to assure they can meet the unique challenges of serving public housing residents within mixed-income communities. MPC also recommends city partners boost their support for the plan, specifically to invest in building the capacity of organizations working on the ground with residents.

“It is unrealistic to assume that family self-sufficiency and community stability fall under the same timetable as the plan’s bricks and mortar redevelopment activity,” reads MPC’s update. “CHA tenants have new opportunities to access services to advance on the path to self-sufficiency. The viability of these opportunities no longer hinges on the CHA alone, but on the entire city’s social service and workforce structure, the philanthropic community, and the engagement of business and civic leaders.”

MPC’s update coincided in several aspects with the findings of CHA Independent Monitor Rita Fry, who in her last report points out the need to strengthen the accountability and capacity of resident service providers. The complete MPC July 2005 CHA Plan for Transformation Update is available at

MPC contact : Robin Snyderman, Housing Director, 312.863.6007 or
Contact: Bernard Loyd, President, Urban Juncture, Inc.; and Co-Chair, MPC Housing Committee, 773.285.5000,

Railroad Revamp Needs Sustained Private Sector Support, State Investment Plan

Though Congress’ $100 million authorization to the Chicago Region Environmental and Transportation Efficiency (CREATE) program to modernize freight rail infrastructure was less than hoped, project officials agree that the funding amassed – from the feds, Metra, and private railroads – is enough to get the urgently needed project off to a good start.

“Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in productivity depend on a healthy regional rail network,” said John S. Gates, Jr., co-chairman of CenterPoint Properties Trust, developer of the region’s largest intermodal center in Rochelle, Ill., and immediate past chair of MPC’s Board of Governors. “CREATE will improve road and rail congestion by unclogging Chicagoland’s freight bottleneck, so the sooner we get this project off the ground, the sooner the region will reap the rewards.”

MPC urges the railroads to redouble their support for CREATE, and to preserve the cooperative alliance achieved by industry leaders that has proven vital to maintaining a fluid gateway. Meanwhile, the state must create a new capital investment plan to ensure that Illinois can enjoy the full benefit of funding earmarked by the federal government and fend off the threat of losing jobs to more efficient rail networks in other regions.

MPC contact: MarySue Barrett, President, 312.863.6001,
Contact: John S. Gates, Jr., Co-Chairman, CenterPoint Properties Trust, 312.578.1600,

Regional Housing Initiative Helps Expand Affordable Housing in Chicagoland

The Illinois Housing Development Authority (IHDA) and MPC are working with three regional housing authorities (Chicago, Cook, and Lake) to provide financial incentives to owners and developers providing affordable housing in opportunity areas. Known as the Regional Housing Initiative (RHI), the program provides operating subsidies and four extra points in the federal Low-Income Housing Tax Credit application to developers working to address the shortage of mixed-income rental housing near jobs and transit, and the scarcity of homes affordable to families earning less than 50 percent of the area’s median income. RHI subsidies are also available for eligible, existing multifamily properties.

The program can fund up to 259 apartments within mixed-income communities, making it an effective tool for Cook and Lake county municipalities working to expand their stock of affordable homes to meet the goals of the Affordable Housing Planning and Appeals Act.

A new rolling application process allows owners and developers of affordable housing to submit proposals for this, the sixth round of RHI, at any time throughout 2005. However, in order to be eligible for the four points, RHI participants applying in IHDA’s Dec. 5, 2005 tax credit round must contact Roberto Requejo, MPC housing associate, as soon as possible – and no later than Nov. 22, 2005 – to schedule a required meeting to discuss the proposal and coordinate the applications.

For more information about the RHI application, including frequently asked questions and applications, visit .

MPC Contact: Roberto Requejo, Housing Associate, 312.863.6015,
MPC contact: Robin Snyderman, Housing Director, 312.863.6007,

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