Dusty Rhodes

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Governor Bruce Rauner's top education aide is defending his budget proposal for colleges and universities.

Secretary of Education Beth Purvis appeared before a House Committee last week.

Flickr user JayMase / "Physical Education" (CC V 2.0)

Yet another plan to address the state’s lopsided school funding structure has been filed. This measure would freeze funding at current levels for all districts, including Chicago Public Schools.

When new revenue becomes available, it would be handed out based on each district’s demographics and needs, giving more to districts struggling financially. Republicans proposed the first draft of this plan, and now Senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill, is sponsoring a compromise version.

As part of his budget address, Governor Bruce Rauner called for a 10% funding increase to MAP Grants yesterday.  

This program helps low income Illinoisans pay college tuition.  Eric Zarnikow, who’s in charge of the program, says it could accommodate 12,000 more students, or increase the size of the grants.  However, it doesn’t pay for current MAP students.  ​

Last summer, Governor Bruce Rauner asked 20 lawmakers and a handful of educators to change how Illinois funds public schools. That bipartisan commission produced a “framework,” but no actual legislation.

 

That is despite the group’s continual focus on a plan favored by Rauner.

 

An Illinois lawmaker who represents a large number of state employees is once again challenging Republican Governor Bruce Rauner to personally negotiate with AFSCME, the state’s largest government union.

The union members will vote this month on authorizing a strike. AFSCME and the Rauner Administration have failed to reach agreement on a new contract. 

Democratic state senator Andy Manar of Bunker Hill says the governor needs to take steps to avoid a strike or a lockout.  

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

A bipartisan group of state legislators has been meeting since August, trying to come up with a new plan to fund public schools.

 

This isn't the first such commission; Illinois has a notoriously inequitable school funding formula, and lawmakers have been trying to adjust it for years.

 

But State Senator Karen McConnaughay, a Republican from St. Charles, says senate leaders hoping to end the overall budget stalemate have inspired lawmakers to find common ground.

 

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

A new law designed to relieve the statewide shortage of teachers and substitute teachers was signed by Governor Bruce Rauner today.

State Senator Dave Luechtefeld, a Republican, taught history and government at Okawville High School for more than 30 years, so it’s hard to argue with him about what it takes to be an educator.

That’s probably why the bill he sponsored passed unanimously in both chambers of the Illinois legislature. It lowers the fee for a substitute teaching license, and smooths the way for retired teachers to work as subs.

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

If you have a student who might be eligible for a MAP grant next year, you’re about out of time to get your financial aid application in.

The Illinois Student Assistance Commission — the state agency that administers MAP grants — announced Tuesday that the deadline for applications for MAP will be Wednesday at 11:59 p.m.

The cut-off date varies according to expected funding and numbers of applications.

Families need to submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, known as the FAFSA.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

A preliminary report on college enrollment in Illinois shows a decline at all sectors of higher education.

All three categories -- public universities, community colleges and private colleges — showed an overall drop in enrollment, according to a report from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Illinois State University and the three University of Illinois campuses showed slight increases; all other public schools declined by an average of almost 3 percent compared to last year.   

A survey by the Illinois Student Assistance Commission found Illinois colleges and universities are handling MAP Grant funding in different ways as state funding runs out.  

Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

For college students, December means cramming for final exams. Some schools try to help students keep studying by serving midnight breakfast in the dining halls. But one student group at the University of Illinois puts their own twist on that tradition.

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Every two years, the advocacy group Advance Illinois takes a hard look at how the state measures up to its task of educating children. Their latest report offers little good news.

Ginger Ostro, executive director of Advance Illinois, says low-income children need more resources to succeed in school. And with the ongoing state budget impasse, Ostro is focused on changing the formula for how education dollars are distributed.​

November marked the beginning of enrollment for the state's prepaid tuition plan, called College Illinois!

The punctuation is part of the registered trademark.  But despite the clever branding, excitement about the plan seems to be waning, thanks to the ongoing state budget impasse. Eric Zarnikow, director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission, says contract sales fell to just 500 last year, down from 650 the year before.

Community colleges in Illinois say they've cut frills, suspended travel, and even laid off teachers. Now, they need state lawmakers to come through with funding.

That was the gist of a letter sent last week from the Illinois Council of Community College Presidents​ to the governor and legislative leaders.

So far, they say they’ve gotten zero response. Tom Ramage, president of both the council and Parkland College, says there’s little left to cut.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

Public colleges and universities in Illinois will have the option of reducing payroll costs in the form of furloughs on employees, under a rule approved Tuesday.

 

Jeff Brownfield, director of an organization representing civil service employees, fielded questions from a trio of lawmakers all asking the same thing: What about the labor unions? After the meeting, Brownfield repeated his answer.

 

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Employees at Illinois’ public colleges and universities could soon have to take a pay cut.

A new rule, pending before lawmakers, would allow schools to force up to 15 days off without pay. 

Jeff Brownfield is director of an association of civil service employees. He says the state budget impasse has left some schools in dire straits, and that they asked for this measure as an option to layoffs.

Durbin.senate.gov

U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is defending Hillary Clinton against criticisms that she’s too cozy with Wall Street.

The Democratic presidential nominee's stance on big business came into question in the wake of the release of hacked emails.   

“It is true that Hillary Clinton made speeches -- if these WikiLeaks are accurate, I don’t know that they are — uh, that raise questions about what she felt at the time,"  Durbin said.  "What she said during this campaign on the record makes it clear that she’s not going to treat Wall Street with kid gloves.”

Flickr user / alamosbasement "old school" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin is pleading with school administrators to help prevent for-profit colleges efforts to recruit their students.

His comments came during a statewide meeting of school principals Monday.

Citing studies that show the average graduate of a for-profit college makes less than a high school drop-out, Durbin says he’s sometimes questioned by students about why the federal government awards Pell grants for them to attend bad schools.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform recently compared enrollment data of Illinois public colleges and universities against similar schools in six neighboring states. 

Enrollment at the state's three largest public universities increased -- but just barely. The biggest gain was at the University of Illinois flagship campus in Urbana-Champaign, at 1.8%.  

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

Governor Bruce Rauner came into office as a big advocate of charter schools.  

He promoted the idea again this week during a Facebook live forum, when he seemed to tie school choice to the state budget.  

“Parents want and deserve options, and we’ve got to make sure as we change our funding formula, that options are on the table and we create the financial ability for low-income parents in particular who can’t afford to move or can’t afford private school tuition,” Rauner said.

Courtesy of Anderson, Hampton

A new school discipline law goes into effect Wednesday, setting strict limits on the reasons principals can use to suspend or expel students.

Its chief proponent was strongly influenced by the example of his middle school assistant principal.   

 

    

 

 

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner announced in July that he was creating a bipartisan commission to change the way the state funds public schools. That commission held its third meeting this week. But another commission is tackling the same topic, and its founder claims her group is getting more work done.

A law going into effect next month will ban zero-tolerance policies in schools and turn suspension and expulsion into disciplinary options of last resort. Districts throughout the state are taking different approaches to prepare for the changes.

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Officials with the Teacher’s Retirement System made a decision today that could add another $421 million to Illinois’ annual pension costs.

After more than an hour of listening to actuaries explain why the teacher pension fund isn’t earning as much off its investments as it used to, TRS board member Andrew Hirshman tried explaining it using medical terms instead of math.

"2008-01-26 (Editing a paper) - 31" by Flickr User Nic McPhee / (CC X 2.0)

A law signed by Gov. Bruce Rauner last week gives high school journalists rights they haven't had since 1988.

That's when a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court dictated that student publications could be censored by school administrators.

But Illinois has become the tenth state to restore free speech rights to student media.

Stan Zoller, with the Illinois Journalism Education Association, helped guide the legislation.

IBHE

During the recent state budget impasse, Illinois colleges and universities have been forced to scrape by without state funding, except for stop gap money designed to keep them open through the fall semester. But that may not satisfy accreditation agencies. James Applegate, director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, says the Higher Learning Commission may just home in on the fact that Illinois schools are missing what schools in other states have: a solid budget.

During the recent state budget impasse, Illinois colleges and universities have been forced to scrape by without state funding, except for stop gap money designed to keep them open through the fall semester. But that may not satisfy accreditation agencies. James Applegate, director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education, says the Higher Learning Commission may just home in on the fact that Illinois schools are missing what schools in other states have: a solid budget.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has always said schools are his top priority. Last year, he vetoed the budget except for schools. In the stopgap plan negotiated by leaders this week, most services get only six months of funding, but pre-kindergarten through high school grades get a full year. That includes an increase of more than $330 million.

Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

  About a dozen college and university officials gathered at the capitol Tuesday to remind lawmakers of the desperate situation schools find themselves in. Most have gone for a year with less than a third of expected state funds. The coalition included presidents of institutions as enormous as the University of Illinois System and as small as the private liberal arts school Illinois College in Jacksonville, whose president warned that state funds need to come quickly.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

The state budget impasse has forced schools to come up with plans for how they’ll open next year without state funding.

    

It’s a decision which schools that operate year-round have to confront sooner than most.  

Some school districts designate just a handful of buildings to operate year-round, but in Rock Island, every school is on that schedule.

The school board has considered cost-saving measures, like eliminating athletics and band, as well as debt options like opening a line of credit.

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