News roundup


Smelly school buses getting biodiesel makeover EPA programs offer cash for conversion to cleaner-burning fuel



The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency believes school buses shouldn't pollute the air the kids breathe. The Illinois Clean School Bus Program offers state money to convert school buses from diesel to cleaner-burning soy-based fuel that can reduce harmful emissions by up to 20 percent.

The Illinois EPA has $2.3 million available for school districts in the central and western areas of the state. Under the program the Unit 5 school system in McLean County started converting its fleet last fall. Federal EPA money is available for other school districts, including Chicago. West suburban Bellwood schools recently won a federal grant to convert its fleet.

Task force analyzes infant testing Federal officials are seeking a way to standardize which genetic tests are given to newborns. In Illinois, babies currently are tested for 32 disorders, but in Missouri, babies are tested for only five. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has convened a task force of doctors, hematologists, legal experts and ethicists to study the feasibility of testing for different genetic disorders. The group will analyze genetic disorders to determine what tests should be conducted and present its recommendations in March.

DCFS changes foster care rules No more than three unrelated children will be placed in foster homes under new rules issued by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Critics say the action does not go far enough. There is currently no limit on the number of foster children placed in one home. The rule change, which does not affect the 140 children already in such homes, was prompted in part by an ongoing federal lawsuit that aims to reduce the movement of children between foster homes. The public guardian's office, however, says the agency still must address the problem of placing children with unqualified foster parents and ensuring they have access to medical care and other services.

Catholic schools invest to draw students By emphasizing curriculum, campus repairs and students' specific needs, the Archdiocese of Chicago hopes to boost dwindling enrollment in Catholic schools. Enrollment declined by 5,488 students, or 4.7 percent, between the 2002 and 2003 school years. A $1 million tuition endowment at the Academy of St. Benedict the African and a new roof at St. Stanislaus Kostka School are among the system's school-specific improvements. Systemwide improvements target students with learning disabilities as well as those who excel academically.

Illinois may ban junk food in schools Gov. Rod Blagojevich wants elementary students to trade video games for jump ropes and junk food for nuts and fruit. If state lawmakers take the governor's advice, they'll ban soda and junk food from school vending machines and replace them with juice, water and fruit. House Bill 3974, now pending in committee, would ban junk food in school as soon as Jan. 1, 2005.

Medill News Service reports


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