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Morning headlines: Monday, August 13, 2012

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(via Flickr/Indofunk Satish)

Heading into special session, Ill. lawmakers remain divided on pensions

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has called for a special session on Friday to overhaul he state's pensions, even though Illinois lawmakers are still divided over the best way to do so.

There's an $83 billion gap in what the state has promised its employees they'll get when they retire, and what Illinois actually has in the bank.

Legislators are in widespread agreement that they have to do something to cut the state's pension costs. In the spring, the Senate passed a measure that begins to do that, but it only applies to General Assembly members and state employees.

Not affected are the benefits of public school teachers, university workers, and judges. That pushes aside having to resolve a dispute over how much school district should have to pay versus the state.

"So, it's a really significant bill, there's no question about the sufficiency of the bill, it's constitutional and it's already passed one chamber," Senate President John Cullerton said. "So, I don't know why the House Republicans wouldn't want to vote for it, I think it's a mistake."

The House GOP says a measure that only deals with two pension funds is too weak, and lifts pressure on lawmakers to finish the job.

It's back-to-school for City kids

It's the first day of class for St. Louis Public Schools. Yesterday, district administrators spoke to congregations at 25 churches, spreading the message that it's every community member's responsibility to make sure young people are in school.

Superintendent Kelvin Adams told churchgoers at Friendly Temple Missionary Baptist that schools are the backbone of the community.

"Those schools are important because they connect people together, " Adams said. "And they provide them the kind of support they need, not only for one or two years, but sometime for the rest of their lives."

The St. Louis School District will also open three new schools today and it added 37 additional early childhood classrooms during the previous school year.

Teen faces hate-crime charges in Belleville

A teenager faces a hate-crime charge after authorities say he helped vandalize a southwestern Illinois church. Prosecutors in St. Clair County also have charged 18-year-old Codie Engelke of Belleville with burglary and criminal damage to property. He's jailed on $150,000 bond.

Investigators say the pastor of Belleville's New Freedom Baptist Church saw several people enter the place of worship July 31. Police who were summoned say they found racial epithets written inside, as well as other vandalism. Police say they took four juveniles and an adult into custody.

A 19-year-old man already has been charged with burglary and criminal property damage.

Engelke's public defender hasn't returned a message seeking comment.

Nurses urge parents to vaccinate children against meningitis

The Missouri Association of School Nurses is urging parents to get their children vaccinated against meningitis. The association is among several health groups across the country urging meningococcal vaccination.

A new report says only about half of Missouri's teens are vaccinated against the disease.

Meningitis is rare, but often deadly. It can be spread through common school activities such as sharing water bottles and drinking glasses. Ten percent of those who contract it die, sometimes within a day.

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