Phil Pash's Up & Down the Rock

Teach Safety? Warm up those computers. Let the zinging begin. I’ve really gone too far this time. Illinois should follow Ohio’s lead. Pray tell, Bearded Sage of Church Street, why is that?

Because Ohio recently became the first state to appropriate funds specifically for schools to teach the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program. There, I said it.

The Ohio Legislature appropriated $40,000 to help participating schools purchase the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program materials to teach children in pre-K through the third grade gun accident prevention. The money will be divided between FY04 and FY05 and could potentially reach more than 130,000 Ohio school children.

“Under the leadership of Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, whose support was critical to this program, Ohio has made a commitment to protecting our children,” said Rep. Timothy Grendell, R-98, the legislator primarily responsible for the appropriation. “The Eddie Eagle program is a proven and effective way to teach gun accident prevention,” he added.

In the past 15 years, Eddie Eagle has reached more than 17 million children in pre-K through the sixth grade with a simple, effective action to take should they encounter a firearm in an unsupervised situation:

“If you see a gun, STOP! Don’t Touch. Leave the Area. Tell an Adult.”

The program has been praised by numerous groups and elected officials, including the National Safety Council, the U.S. Department of Justice, the National Sheriffs’ Association and 24 state governors. To date, 22,000 educators, law enforcement officers, teachers and civic leaders have delivered the program to children throughout the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico.

“With this level of commitment, Ohio has really taken a leading role in gun accident prevention, the effectiveness of which is confirmed by declining gun accidents among children,” said Craig D. Sandler, NRA executive director of General Operations. “The Eddie Eagle program in particular is widely popular with the school teachers and law enforcement officers who teach it.”

National statistics show fatal firearm accidents among children have decreased dramatically over the past three decades and continue to do so. According to the National Center for Health Statistics and the National Safety Council, there has been an 84 percent decline in such fatalities since 1975, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a decline in accidental firearms deaths among children ages 14 and under of 49 percent from 1990 to 1998.

Schools, law enforcement agencies, civic groups and others interested in more information about the Eddie Eagle GunSafe Program should call at (800) 231-0752 or visit the Web site of

Ready, aim, fire off those e-mails. But don’t worry—it would never happen here. Too many people choose not to be enlightened.

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Education, Lottery: On the subject of education, Peoria Journal Star columnist Terry Bibo recently penned a good column on Illinois education and the state lottery—subjects I recently mentioned. The rest of this item is from her column:

Although four out of five states have lotteries now, Illinois was just the fourth in the nation when our lottery began on July 1, 1974. By today’s standards, it was pretty puny, raking in just $129 million. That figure rose rapidly in the early 1980s, then ballooned to $1.2 billion in 1985—about the same time the law changed to earmark lottery profits for education.

“They may have originally sold it to the public as it was going to help schools,” says lottery spokeswoman Anne Plohr. “Here’s the problem. It’s part of the budget.”

The money was and is put in the common school fund. It was and is used for education. But there are actually two problems with that. First, we need a lot more money for education than you think. Second, lottery money enables the state to slide a little on its share.

Lottery sales hover around $1.5 billion a year—big money. More than half of that is awarded in prizes. Ten percent goes to commissions, bonuses, advertising, salaries, etc. Roughly a third is profit and sent on to the school fund.

The profits hover around $540 million a year—also big money. But that is a fraction of what’s needed for the schools. In fiscal 2003, Illinois elementary and secondary schools cost more than $19 billion.

And that’s the catch.

The $19 billion is a combination of local, state and federal funds. Only the state gets to use lottery money as part of its share. Over the last 20-some years, the state has gone from spending a little less than a third of its income on education to a little more than a fourth. Meanwhile, local school districts have had to quadruple property taxes.

Nobody at the Illinois Association of School Boards wanted to address the lottery issue—the receptionist said everybody was at a conference—but the board Web site does.

“Although lottery profits are deposited in the Common School Fund, that is merely an accounting maneuver that reduces the amount of money that the schools require from other state sources,” it says. “Lottery profits themselves do not provide additional funds for the schools.”

… According to Karen Craven, spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois ranks 10th for funding per enrolled student; 25th for state and local spending on education; and 47th for state funding on elementary and secondary education.

“Illinois was the only state to receive an ‘F’ for equity of education resources,” she said, citing a recent article in Education Week.

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But No Jobs Lost? A report from the Illinois Secretary of State says the number of interstate trucks registered in Illinois has dropped 10 percent from last year, and the trucking industry blames higher taxes and fees.

Guess who that was? Why, it was our governor, Rod Blagojevich, who wanted to raise taxes and fees to help reduce the budget.

The Mid-West Truckers Association says the number of registrations in Illinois has fallen by nearly 17,000, to a total of 151,000. That comes after Illinois increased its truck registration fees by 36 percent to help plug a $5 billion budget deficit.

The Association says the increase and the loss of other tax exemptions have caused many truckers to move to other states. Illinois trucks must be registered every year.

But a spokeswoman for Blagojevich disagrees (naturally, that’s her job), saying the governor does not believe Illinois has lost any jobs because of the increase.

Of course, he’s not going to admit he cost the state any jobs. But the numbers speak for themselves. This is the same guy whose news releases boast about bike trails creating new jobs. That’s right, bike trails.

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