“Being on probation has been very stressful,” complains Colleen Dykas, a teacher at Jungman Elementary on the near southwest side, in Catalyst (May). “Our [assessment] team never returned, so we couldn’t ask what they meant by certain statements. For instance, one item said that the school had a sterile environment. Well, that could be good. It could mean that the school was clean, or it could be bad. We don’t know.”

Suburban sprawl as seen from the outside. Nonmetropolitan counties are growing more than three times as fast in the 1990s as they did in the 1980s, according to new reports by Loyola University’s Kenneth Johnson and the USDA’s Calvin Beale. Most of the growth has come because more city people are moving out and fewer rural residents are moving to the cities. Rural counties adjacent to metro areas were the most likely to be gaining population (luc.edu/depts/sociology/research.html).

“When Richard J. Durbin joined the staff of the Illinois Senate in 1969, the General Assembly was discussing ways to develop a fairer system of school funding,” writes Frederick Lowe in “Chicago Educator” (April 30). Twenty-eight years later, Durbin has moved on to the U.S. Senate; the Illinois Senate is still discussing the same thing.

Public spirit? Sixty-two percent of adults in the six-county Chicago area say they volunteer time to charities each year–an average of one hour a month, according to a May press release from the Metro Chicago Information Center. Twenty percent said they were “immediately able” to volunteer more time, an average of eight hours a month, to the “right” charitable organization.

“What some of gambling’s foes mean but cannot say is that the state ought to ban gambling by the poor and stupid,” writes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Issues (May). “But we are a nation dedicated to equal treatment under the law, and if we are to ban gambling by the poor and stupid, we ought to ban it for the rich and stupid, too. Illinois’ poorer citizens spend disproportionate amounts of their money on lottery tickets, but its corporations spend disproportionately on political candidates, and no one is talking seriously about banning elections.”

“We don’t need a National AIDS Policy Advisor,” writes Gordon Nary in the Chicago-based Journal of the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (April). “What we need is a National Ethics Advisor….The office of National AIDS Advisor has a full-time staff of two and an annual budget of less than the cost of maintaining the public washrooms at the Willard Hotel in Washington DC….There has also been a call to strengthen the position of National AIDS Policy Advisor by elevating it to cabinet status. That might have been a reasonable strategy four years ago when the position was created, but not now. AIDS has become another disease of the poor. Since the poor are disenfranchised in our society, we will never see an advocate for the poor given cabinet status.”

Behind bars–voluntarily. According to American Demographics (May), between three million and eight million Americans, most of them middle-class, live in gated communities.

“Income support programs have been relatively successful in maintaining the material living standard of many poor children,” University of Chicago public policy professor Susan Mayer tells the “University of Chicago Chronicle” (April 17).

But her new book, What Money Can’t Buy, argues that more money would not lift many kids out of the cycle of poverty, because many key parenting choices reflect values, not income. “Parents who do not buy books for their children are probably not likely to read to them even if the books are free.”

Equal opportunity at last. Most Chicago hate crimes–the ones the police find out about–are racial, according to statistics compiled by the Police Department’s civil rights unit and reported by the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. As of April 15, 1996, there were 49 hate crimes reported in the city; at the same date this year, 66. The 1997 total includes 22 blacks, 17 of whom were victimized by white offenders, and 22 whites, 17 of whom were victimized by black offenders.

People who really want to go out with the millennium. One of the exotic listings offered for New Year’s Eve 1999 in an April press release from Specialty Travel: “Hot Times in Chile. The event’s sizzling when bicycling up the slopes of Chile’s active Osorno Volcano.”