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Scofflaw prosecutor. A February 26 press release from the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform notes that the 2002 Republican candidate for state attorney general, Du Page County state's attorney Joe Birkett, failed to report the employer and occupation for 31 percent of the donors to his unsuccessful campaign, though that's what state law requires. The contributers included Raymond Fauber of Peoria, who gave $100,000, and Anthony McMahon of Park Ridge, who contributed $55,000. Republicans frequently argue that full disclosure is the only kind of campaign finance reform needed. Evidently even that is too much reform for some of them.

Chicago school reform may not be a success story, according to Linda Darling-Hammond, who offers an unusually intelligent critique of the nationwide effort to raise educational standards in Columbia University's Teachers College Record (February 16, www.tcrecord.org). "Early efforts at standards-based reform demonstrated that it is possible to create thoughtful standards and educationally productive assessments that are aligned to them. Connecticut, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, Vermont, and Washington are examples of states that have developed fairly sophisticated performance-based assessment systems based on intellectually ambitious standards....Many unhappy outcomes of recent reforms have been associated with the inappropriate stakes associated with test scores, rather than the nature of the tests themselves....For example, grade retention and denial of diplomas have been major thrusts of some state policies, although a substantial body of research has long found lower achievement and higher dropout rates for retained students than comparable peers who move on through the grades. This recent evaluation by the Consortium on Chicago School Research of a policy that retained thousands of students based on their test scores reiterates the recurrent findings....'The CPS policy now highlights a group of students who are facing significant barriers to learning and are falling farther and farther behind.'"

More suburbanites for sprawl. According to a February 27 story in the Herald News, the New Lenox village board refused to allow a developer to build ten houses in a five-acre subdivision, limiting the development to just four houses in its ongoing quest for less-dense development.

"It's difficult to exaggerate how politically incorrect it is today to defend smokers," writes Joseph Bast of the Heartland Institute in "Intellectual Ammunition" (Winter)--a sure sign that he's about to defend them. "Virtually all the country's elites--newspaper editors, elected and unelected government officials, celebrities, doctors, lawyers, and educators--have concluded smoking is bad for adults and worse for kids, and therefore we should all quit. If we don't voluntarily quit, conventional wisdom says we should be compelled to quit....But things look different from the other end of the cigarette, cigar, pipe, and pouch. Moderate use of tobacco products need not pose a significant health risk, any more than an occasional glass of wine, being slightly overweight, or riding a bicycle. Proper ventilation makes the over-hyped danger of secondhand smoke de minimus. So what gives you the right to tell me I can't occasionally smoke or chew?"

Thank God--here come the firefighters with more duct tape. Amount of federal help Illinois expected to get from the federal government for antiterrorism preparedness: $100 million (Illinois Issues, March). Amount likely to arrive under current congressional proposals: $16-34 million, none of which can be used for training or reimbursing local agencies for overtime pay. Northbrook's fire chief, Jay Reardon, says, "If you can't spend the money to train people to use the equipment, what good is the equipment?"

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