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Wealthy Parents in Illinois Exploit Loophole to Earn Financial Aid and Scholarships

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  • Reports by the Wall Street Journal and ProPublica show that affluent parents in Illinois are transferring the guardianship of their children to friends and family in an effort to save on college tuition.
  • By transferring legal custody, the child can identify themselves as financially independent from their families on financial aid applications, resulting in more aid money.
  • This practice is legal, however, school officials are calling the practice unethical, and the Education Department is looking into the matter.

Illinois Families Game Financial Aid

Recent reports show that affluent parents in Illinois are transferring the guardianship of their children to friends and other relatives so that their children will be awarded more financial aid money when applying for college.

According to both ProPublica and the Wall Street Journal, at some point during their child’s junior or senior year of high school, families will legally give custody of their child to a friend or family member. This allows their child to identify themselves as financially independent from their families when they apply for financial aid and college scholarships and can result in the student receiving more money.

The Journal spoke to one Chicago-area family that used this practice, which is legal. The family they spoke to makes over $250,000 in annual income and live in a house valued at over $1 million. The mother claimed that they had already spent over $600,000 on college tuition on older kids.

After their daughter’s guardianship was transferred, the only income she had to claim was a little over $4,000, which she earned from a summer job. She ended up attending a private school with a tuition of $65,000, and got $27,000 in merit scholarships and $20,000 in need-based aid.

The family told the Journal that the process of transferring guardianship pretty easy and mainly just involved paperwork. The co-worker taking custody had to attend one court hearing, but the daughter did not have to go, and neither did her parents.

Logistics and Potential Consequences of the Process

Even though this practice is legal, colleges in Illinois are concerned about its use and question the morality behind it. But still, several schools in Illinois are starting to take a closer look at the situation.

Andrew Borst, the director of undergraduate enrollment at the University of Illinois told the Journal it could take opportunities away from students who actually come from low-income families.

“Our financial-aid resources are limited and the practice of wealthy parents transferring the guardianship of their children to qualify for need-based financial aid—or so-called opportunity hoarding—takes away resources from middle- and low-income students,” he said. “This is legal, but we question the ethics.”

The Journal looked at court documents and found 38 cases where juniors or seniors in high school had their guardianship transferred. Many of those families lived in homes valued over half a million dollars.

In Illinois, even if a parent can provide care to a child, a court can still transfer guardianship so long as the parents relinquish care, the child and the new guardian consent, and a court finds that it is in the child’s best interest. In most of the 38 cases, the language used to justify why it is in the child’s best interest usually resembled, “The guardian can provide educational and financial support and opportunities to the minor that her parents could not otherwise provide.”

ProPublica spoke to someone who became a child’s legal guardian for this reason. He said he wrestled with the ethics of the matter, because his wife works at a college, so he saw the situation from both sides. They were afraid that by doing this, they could take aid away from another family, even though he was told this would not be the case.

“It’s one of these gray areas, and my heart wanted me to do it for the family,” he said to ProPublica. “But I also have a conscience. I wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing.”

Consulting Firm Behind the Practice

So, how did these families manage to do this? Both the Journal and ProPublica say that many followed a path created by a consulting firm called Destination College. The group is based in Chicago and says it works to make college more affordable for families and their children.

“Our team of tax, financial and academic planning experts specializes in creating a customized guide, making sure the students are matched to the major and school of their interests, and the parents can comfortably afford it,” Destination College’s website says.

The firm claims to save students an average of $30,000 a year on college. Nowhere on the site does it directly suggest that families transfer the guardianship of their child, but there is language that could be hinting at the practice.

Destination College offers three packages: Basic, Preferred, and Premier. One of the features in the Premier package is: “College Financial Plan, Using Income and Asset Shifting Strategies to Increase Your Financial and Merit Aid and Lower Out of Pocket Tuition Expenses.”

Lora Georgieva, the founder of Destination College, has denied giving comments to both outlets.

According to the Journal, the Education Department is reportedly looking into this practice. It is currently unclear whether or not this is happening in any states outside of Illinois. However, other schools in the midwest have been alerted about the practice, and some have said they will keep an eye out for evidence of its occurrence.

In order to prevent this from happening in the future, some have recommended amending language in the Federal Student Aid handbook.

One suggestion given to the Journal read, “If a student enters into a legal guardianship, but continues to receive medical and financial support from their parents, they do not meet the definition of a legal guardianship and are still considered a dependent student.”

See what others are saying: (Wall Street Journal) (ProPublica) (HuffPost)

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Woman Who Live-Streamed Her Sister’s Death Arrested Again, Weeks After Early Prison Release

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  • Obdulia Sanchez made national headlines in 2017 when she live-streamed a drunken car crash that resulted in the graphic death of her 14-year-old sister.
  • She was sentenced to six years in prison but was released late last month after serving a little over two years.
  • But just weeks after her release, Sanchez was arrested again after a short police chase and car crash.

Obdulia Sanchez Arrested Again 

The California woman who served time in prison for killing her sister in a drunken car crash on Instagram live was arrested again, just weeks after her early release. 

Obdulia Sanchez, now 20-years-old, was arrested in Stockton on Thursday after a short police pursuit. Local authorities said she refused to stop when officers attempted to pull her over at around 1:30 am. 

Sanchez eventually crashed her vehicle near a highway on-ramp where another male passenger in the car was able to run out. The male suspect managed to escape police, but Sanchez was arrested. She now faces traffic and weapons charges. 

Authorities said she was on parole and driving on a revoked license. Officers also say they found a loaded gun in the car. 

Stockton Police Department

Recent Release and Previous Crimes 

Sanchez was released on parole late last month after she served more than two years in prison for a previous crash.

In July 2017, Sanchez was drunk driving and live streaming on Instagram when she crashed her car, killing her 14-year-old sister Jacqueline Sanchez Estrada. and injuring another passenger. 

The graphic incident made national headlines. On the stream, Sanchez’s hands could be seen leaving the wheel before she swerved and then overcorrected. Her sister, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown from the vehicle.

“I fucking killed my sister, okay? I know I’m going to jail for life, all right?” Sanchez can be heard saying to her sister, who appeared to be already dead. “Ima hold it down. I love you, rest in peace, sweetie.”

Later reports explained that Sanchez had tested positive for alcohol and cocaine. Sanchez was heavily criticized online for continuing to stream after the crash, showing her sister’s dead body. 

In a public letter written from behind bars, she wrote, “I made that video because I knew I had more than 5,000 followers. It was the only way my sister would get a decent burial. I would never expose my sister like that. I anticipated the public donating money because my family isn’t rich.”

Sanchez was ultimately convicted of gross vehicular manslaughter, DUI and child endangerment. She was sentenced to six years and four months in prison with the possibility of parole after three years.

The state corrections office said Sanchez was approved for early release after earning credit for good behavior, for attending rehabilitation programs, and for time served in jail before she was sentenced. 

See what others are saying: (Sacramento Bee) (NBC News) (The Washington Post) (The Los Angeles Times

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Chicago Teachers Strike Over Pay, Class Sizes, and More

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  • Around 25,000 teachers and educational staff members in Chicago began striking Thursday, leaving 300,000 kids out of class.
  • The Chicago Teachers Union is demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, as well as more nurses, social workers, counselors, and librarians. 
  • The city’s mayor and Chicago Public Schools have announced plans that include these demands, but the Union says the contract language does not hold CPS accountable enough for these terms.
  • While the strike continues, schools will be open even though classes are canceled. Principals and associate principals will still on campuses, and breakfast and lunch will sill be served.

Chicago Public School’s Plan

Around 25,000 teachers and educational employees in Chicago began striking Thursday morning, demanding higher pay, smaller class sizes, and more efficient staffing.

The strike was announced Wednesday night when Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Teachers’ Union failed to reach a deal. Chicago is home to the third-largest school district in the country, which means close to 300,000 students have been left without classes to attend.

CPS’s announced a plan that would, among other things, raise teachers’ salaries by 16% over the course of five years. According to Fox Business, the starting salary for Chicago teachers is already the highest in the state of Illinois, coming close to $53,000 a year. By the end of this five-year time period, that salary would increase to $72,000. CPS Says that the average salary would be close to $100,000.

Their plan also included adding a nurse to every school by 2024 and doubling the number of social workers. 

What the Union Wants

CTU was not satisfied with the offer. First, they thought that CPS’s numbers were wrong and that the average salary would only get to $85,000. Raises were also not the only issue at stake for them. 

CTU is asking for a hard cap on class sizes and for teachers to receive a stipend if that cap is ever exceeded. They want support for hiring social workers, counselors, nurses and other positions at recommended ratios, as well as a librarian and restorative justice coordinator in every school.

Another priority for them is to make sure these positions, social workers in particular, have an appropriate workload. Some schools have counselors that only come in a couple of days a week but have around 100 cases to work on. So, when they are unavailable, teachers find that they end up acting as counselors themselves. 

While CPS’s plan did include increases for nurses and social workers, the CTU says it is not enough. They say that CPS is not putting the exact terms in the contract language allowing them to not be held explicitly accountable for these terms. Even when CPS added more to their plan in regards to these demands earlier this month, CTU still criticized the contract language. 

Mayor Lightfoot’s Role

On Thursday morning, Chicago Mayor, Lori Lightfoot held a press conference regarding the strike. She maintained that the union was being offered a good package and that she hoped for a deal to be reached.

We don’t have unlimited resources, but having said that, we put very generous offers on the table both for teachers and support personnel,” she said. “And I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to bring them back to the table and resolve all the open issues.” 

Lightfoot is new to the role. She took office in May, making this one of the first hurdles she has had to face as mayor. 

The CTU is accusing her of not fulfilling campaign promises As far as staffing, they claim she fully supported hiring full-time nurses, social workers, and librarians, but that she has rejected contract language that would hold CPS accountable for this. 

The Union also claimed that she supported additional counselors. Now, however, she and CPS “want to issue tentative assignments for next year by June 15 instead of May 15, creating more uncertainty for educators.”

What Is Being Said at the Strike

Frustrations with Lightfoot were made clear during the strike, with reports saying participants chanted things like “Lightfoot Lightfoot, get on the right foot.” 

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter spoke to a teacher who mentioned Lightfoot. He said he was not looking forward to striking but added, “We’re teachers. Sometimes we’ve got to teach the mayor.”

CTU’s President, Jesse Sharkey, attended a strike outside of an elementary school and defended their demands.

“Our demands are significant, and we have real demands, but that’s because the needs are significant,” he said according to the Chicago Sun-Times.  We ask for a lot because we give a lot. All of our schools here deal with real traumas, and we need support.”

Options for Students

Because of the strike, Chicago has to find something to do for the hundreds of thousands of students who do not have classes to attend. Lightfoot said that while classes are off, the schools will be open during their normal hours. Principals and Associate Principals will be on hand, and breakfast and lunch will still be served. 

Other camps and the YMCA are also offering programs, though unlike the schools, they will not be free. 

But not all students are taking the day off. Some are supporting their teachers and attending the strike. The Chicago Sun-Times spoke to Senior Jude Greneir who went to hand out snacks and beverages.

“My teachers are striking so everyone has equal resources,” she told them. “I hope the city understands. My school is very lucky, but every school needs a nurse and proper resources for their children.”

Another senior, Anthony Jordan, joined his teachers in a picket line.

“I want to support my teachers because they taught me everything I know,” he told the Chicago Tribune. “Our class sizes are too large. We really do need more nurses. It’s worth being out here because it’s for a good cause. It will help us all in the end.”

Right now, it is unclear how long the strike will last. Lightfoot said a deal could be struck as early as today, but members of CTU do not anticipate that soon of an end. Schools will remain closed for class until further notice. 

See what others are saying: (Chicago Tribune) (Chicago Sun-Times) (Fox Business)

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The Forgotten Tribes: Truth About Federally Unrecognized Tribes in The United States…

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California has the most federally non-recognized tribes in the U.S. with over 50 throughout the state. If you’re not familiar with how American Indian tribes function, they’re classified as sovereign nations by the federal government, meaning they have certain rights as a group/nation. But when a tribe is not considered a sovereign nation by the federal government, then they are labeled as federally non-recognized.

Lack of federal recognition for a tribe can have a ton of repercussions for its citizens. One of the most noteworthy is that they are not legally considered American Indians by the federal government, regardless of ancestry, so members of these tribes can’t apply for American Indian scholarships because they’re only intended for federally recognized tribes.

There are also many other struggles federally non-recognized tribes face like not having financial resources to preserve their culture and lacking protection to keep their children in their tribal community under the Indian Child Welfare Act. Now, you’re probably asking yourself “why specifically does California have so many federally non-recognized tribes?”

Well, in this Rogue Rocket mini-documentary, we’ll look at how California’s history played part in it and deep-dive into the challenges tribes lacking federal recognition face. But we’ll be understanding this complex issue through the lens of one non-federally recognized tribe in San Fernando, California called the Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians.

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