David Schaper

David Schaper is a NPR National Desk reporter based in Chicago.

In this role, he covers news in Chicago and around the Midwest. Additionally he reports on a broad range of important social, cultural, political, and business issues in the region.

The range of Schaper's reporting has included profiles of service members killed in Iraq, and members of a reserve unit returning home to Wisconsin. He produced reports on the important political issues in key Midwest battleground states, education issues related to "No Child Left Behind," the bankruptcy of United Airlines as well as other aviation and transportation issues, and the devastation left by tornadoes, storms, blizzards, and floods in the Midwest.

Prior to joining NPR, Schaper spent nine years working as an award-winning reporter and editor for Chicago Public Radio's WBEZ-FM. For three years he covered education issues, reporting in-depth on the problems, financial and otherwise, plaguing Chicago's public schools.

In 1996, Schaper was named assistant news editor, managing the station's daily news coverage and editing a staff of six. He continued general assignment reporting, covering breaking news, politics, transportation, housing, sports, and business.

When he left WBEZ, Schaper was the station's political reporter, editor, and a frequent fill-in news anchor and program host. Additionally, he served as a frequent guest panelist on public television's Chicago Tonight and Chicago Week in Review.

Since beginning his career at Wisconsin Public Radio's WLSU-FM, Schaper worked in Chicago as a writer and editor for WBBM-AM and as a reporter and anchor for WXRT-FM. He worked at commercial stations WMAY-AM in Springfield, IL; and WIZM-AM and FM in La Crosse, WI; and at public stations WSSU-FM (now WUIS) and WDCB-FM in in Illinois.

Schaper earned a Bachelor of Science at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse and an Master of Arts from the University of Illinois-Springfield.

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One of the most bitter congressional races is in the suburbs of Chicago, where controversial freshman Republican Joe Walsh is fighting to keep a seat he was actually drawn out of.

The Tea Party favorite's bombastic rants frequently get him into trouble, even with members of his own party, and Walsh is facing a tough Democratic opponent in Iraq war veteran Tammy Duckworth, who lost both of her legs in combat.

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On her 22nd birthday this summer, Sarah Wagner of suburban Wheaton, Ill., who describes herself as a huge fan of the Chicago Cubs, opened an email to find an incredible surprise — a recorded message from her favorite Cubs player:

"Hey, Sarah! Kerry Wood here! Thanks for your message and I hope you're having a great summer!"

"When I heard for the first time, I instantly smiled," says Wagner. "I think my hands probably went over like my mouth, like, 'Oh my gosh, Kerry Wood is talking to me, even though he has no idea who I am!' "

One of the most important seats in the battle for control of the U.S. Senate is in Wisconsin, where Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring. Early polls showed popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson might easily flip the seat to the GOP, but he's now trailing Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin. It's a race that's going down to the wire in this almost evenly divided state.

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OK. So, all those political ads are on the air. Last night, the candidates themselves were on the air. They did interviews on the same CBS program, "60 Minutes." NPR's David Schaper was watching.

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This summer's drought continues to wilt and bake crops from Ohio to the Great Plains and beyond. Under a baking, late-afternoon sun just outside of the tiny east-central Illinois town of Thawville, John Hildenbrand walks down his dusty, gravel driveway toward one of his corn fields.

"You can see on the outer edge, these are a lot better-looking ears on the outside rows. Of course, it's not near as hot as it is inside the field," he says.

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Whenever a car or truck turns off busy Channahon Road onto the long drive to the Caterpillar plant in Joliet, Ill., a handful of union workers on a picket line scream, "Scab! Scab!!"

As strikers try shaming the few workers and managers who cross the line, even a clearly marked sandwich delivery car gets shouted down.

Approximately 800 workers at this plant, which makes hydraulic systems for Caterpillar's heavy construction and mining equipment, are about to enter their third month on strike.

Negotiations Fail

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Republican Gov. Scott Walker triumphantly returned to the Wisconsin Capitol Wednesday, fresh off of his decisive victory in Tuesday's bitter recall election.

The governor appears to be emerging from the tough recall fight stronger, and with his national profile rising.

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Patrick Fitzgerald, the federal prosecutor who went after the Gambino crime family, al-Qaida and even the White House in court — not to mention several Illinois politicians — is leaving his job as U.S. attorney in Chicago.

The career prosecutor, known as "Eliot Ness with a Harvard degree," will leave a legacy as a tenacious corruption buster, though some criticize his style as overzealous.

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Three years ago, President Obama was rolling out an ambitious vision for high-speed rail in America. "Imagine whisking through towns at speeds over 100 mph," the president said at the time.

Today, there are a few Amtrak trains going that fast, but for the most part, the president's plans for high-speed trains have slowed considerably.

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Shortly after he took office last winter, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and fellow Republicans in the Legislature enraged Democrats and public employee unions by cutting collective bargaining rights, and Wisconsin has been on fire politically ever since. A protest movement forced a recall election, scheduled for June 5, and now, voters in Tuesday's Democratic gubernatorial primary will select Walker's challenger.

Most kids in Chicago's public schools spend just five hours and 45 minutes in school a day. It's one of the shortest school days in the country.

That's why more than half of the city's public elementary schools have no recess. At those that do, it's shockingly short.

"We have a 10-minute recess and a 10-minute lunch at our school," says Wendy Katten, mother of a third-grader at Burley Elementary School in Chicago. "It's not sufficient."

The top financial official for the small city of Dixon, Ill., is accused of stealing more than $30 million from city coffers over the past six years. It's a staggering amount of money for the city of just 15,000 residents in northwest Illinois, and federal prosecutors allege she used the funds to finance a lavish lifestyle that included horse farms and a $2 million luxury motor home.

It's another furious dash to the finish line as delegate-rich Illinois holds its Republican presidential primary Tuesday.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is looking to increase his delegate lead. And he's still searching for that decisive win over his main rival, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Redistricting is forcing a handful of congressional incumbents of the same party to run against each other in primaries. On March 6, Rep. Marcy Kaptur defeated fellow liberal Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich in Ohio.

And next Tuesday, two conservative Republicans square off in Illinois.

The scene is the newly drawn 16th Congressional District, which covers mostly rural territory in the northern part of the state, curving around the suburbs and exurbs of Chicago, from the Wisconsin border north of Rockford to the Indiana border east of Kankakee.

Elkhart, Ind., is known as the RV capital of the world. The city suffered badly when the recession hit and demand for recreational vehicles all but screeched to a halt. That's when local and state leaders started looking for ways to bolster the area's manufacturing industry.

The unemployment rate in the city along the Michigan border eventually soared to 20 percent — the highest in the nation at the time.

It's one of the few politician-sponsored activities that should be free of controversy: a high school art contest.

But an annual citywide competition to design the stickers affixed to every windshield in Chicago has suddenly become a public relations nightmare.

The sticker, designed by 15-year-old Herbie Pulgar, depicts Chicago's famous skyline inside of a heart, with a backdrop of the city's blue and white flag. Extending up from the heart are four hands, and above them, symbols representing police officers, firefighters and paramedics.

At a coffee shop in Muscatine, Iowa, Tuesday, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was asked whether nominating a social conservative might sink the party's chances of winning the White House in November.

Muscatine is in a more moderate part of eastern Iowa, and the man who asked the question told Gingrich there are many business people — fiscal conservatives — who don't agree with the GOP platform positions on abortion, gay rights and other issues. The man asked Gingrich if social conservatives are throwing fiscal conservatives "under the bus."

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