Friday, January 15, 2010

Quinn signs new laws

By Jamey Dunn

Gov. Pat Quinn signed three new bills into law that go into effect immediately.

The two bills Quinn signed today will assist Illinois in its pursuit of up to $500 million in competitive federal education grants.

SB 315 will make student performance the primary factor for evaluating teachers. Some school districts, including Chicago Public Schools, will implement the new standards in 2010, and the rest of the state will follow suit by 2016.

SB 616 allows nonprofit organizations, such as Teach for America, to offer alternative teacher certification programs independently of universities.

The sponsor of both bills, Rep. Linda Chapa LaVia, an Aurora Democrat, said the new regulations will give the state a higher score on its application for the Race to the Top program, which is due Tuesday.

“[Race to the Top is] an opportunity for states to compete — for states to step up to the plate and say: ‘We want to turn around our struggling schools. We want highly qualified teachers to teach in underperforming schools. We want to close the achievement gap,’” said Maywood Democrat Sen. Kimberly Lightford, also a sponsor of both bills.

Quinn signed SB 1013 yesterday. That law puts into place the reforms to the Meritorious Good Time program that Quinn laid out earlier this month. Inmates now have to serve at least 60 days before they can receive any time off their sentences for good behavior.

The new law also requires the Department of Corrections to notify prosecutors 14 days before releasing an inmate early. These changes came in response to controversy over offenders, some of them violent, being released through the program after spending only weeks behind bars.

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