PEORIA, IL -- A Democratic party candidate will be slated to run in the Illinois 18th Congressional District against Cong. Darren LaHood.
He is Junius Rodriguez, professor of history at Eureka College, and the author and editor of Slavery in the United States,A Social, Political, and Historical Encyclopedia.
The announcement was made by Peoria County Democratic Party Chairman Billy Halstead at the annual May Day Dinner of the Peoria County Democratic Women, held on May 1.
Democrats have until the end of May to slate candidates to run in open seats that were not filled during the primary.
Also at the dinner, the featured speaker, Peoria District 150 Supt. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat, said the district is being "rebranded" and should be known as the Peoria Public Schools.
She described the diversity of the school district, with 13,145 students speaking 44 different languages and from a variety of nations. This diversity has been celebrated at the schools, she said.
Fifth graders at Mark Bills School formed a sign language club to better communicate with a classmate, an event that has made national news, she said.
She named four "wicked problems" that need to be solved to improve the schools: academic achievement, which includes higher test scores and, an improved graduation rate which was 65 percent in 2015; poverty and lack of opportunity in some neighborhoods; mental health including student exposure to crime, violence, poverty, high teen pregnancy and STD rates, even a suicide rate double the overall Illinois rate; and money.
Since 2012, the district has lost $21 million in state funding it expected, she said. It receives only 30 percent of the needed funds from property taxes, she said.
The district's strategic plan shows the solutions, she said. They include higher educational standards and better curriculum; support for the whole child; effective leadership; engaging families and the community; and financial stewardship.
She hopes to find $150,000 for an 'alignment plan' that has worked elsewhere to help Rockford, she said.
The district faces a possible $300,000 a year 'fee' as part of the city solution to its combined sewer overflow, required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, she said. She's hoping for an exemption."We cannot afford it," she said.
-- Elaine Hopkins