Dusty Rhodes

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Daisy Contreras/NPR Illinois

The Illinois State Senate spent Sunday in session, where Senators voted 38 to 19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of the new school funding bill.

The override wasn't a surprise, because this new evidence-based funding plan originally had cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority. The House, however, represents a higher hurdle, where Democrats will need Republicans to vote with them. That vote is scheduled Wednesday.

Sen. Andy Manar, the Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the measure, says he'd rather negotiate a compromise.

"Cap and Diploma" by Flickr User bluefieldphotos bp / (CC X 2.0)

Adults in Illinois who failed to graduate from high school still can earn a General Educational Development certificate, also known as a GED.

But legislation approved by the General Assembly would provide what some consider to be a better alternative.

Students leave high school for a variety of reasons. Some drop out because of family obligations, financial pressures, or lack of motivation. Some are pushed out due to disciplinary problems. Once they reach age 21, their only option is to get a GED.

Carter Staley/NPR Illinois

The new state budget will fund Illinois colleges and universities at the level they received in 2015 — minus 10 percent. But there’s one area of higher education that got a boost.  

The Monetary Award Program, known as MAP, provides grants of up to $4,700 to low-income college students.

The two-year budget impasse caused a break in MAP funding, and affected students spoke out about how this interruption threw their lives into chaos. Lawmakers responded by increasing the amount going to MAP scholarships by 10 percent in the new state budget.

"Teachers Pet" by Flickr User Matthew / (CC X 2.0)

The shakeup in Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office could signal a tougher stance on school funding.

The state spending plan requires adoption of a new funding formula, but Rauner has promised to veto the plan that got legislative approval; that’s because it includes money for Chicago teacher pensions.

This standoff might make the lawsuit filed by 20 school superintendents more relevant.  

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

In a maneuver some state lawmakers call a "booby trap," the spending plan approved last week says Illinois can't appropriate money for schools unless a new funding formula also wins approval. It ties K-12 dollars to something known as the "evidence-based model."

Both political parties endorse this model, which is based on each district's demographics. The Democrats' version has passed the House and the Senate; they haven't sent it to Gov. Bruce Rauner, however, because he has promised to veto it.

Wikipedia

The controversial override vote Thursday was delayed by about two hours when the capitol was put on lockdown, due to reports of a woman throwing or spilling an unknown substance near the governor’s office and other locations.

The woman’s name has not been released, but she is well-known to several people in the statehouse, and is an education advocate.

That’s according to Letitia Dewith-Anderson, a lobbyist who says she has known the woman for a couple of years; she bumped into her being escorted by police out of an elevator.

Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

More than a dozen school leaders from across Illinois gathered at the state capitol Wednesday to thank lawmakers who went out on a limb to raise taxes and send more money to schools. They held signs and banners saying “thank you.” However, gratitude wasn’t their only motive.

If you deal with children, you're probably familiar with the concept of positive reinforcement. You reward children for good behavior as a way to encourage them to continue doing it.

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

More than a dozen school superintendents gathered in the statehouse today to thank lawmakers who went out on a limb to raise taxes and send more money to schools.

That gratitude was also their way of nudging lawmakers not to change their votes Thursday, when the House of Representatives will try to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget veto.

Jeff Craig, superintendent of Aurora West schools, admonished lawmakers with something a teacher might tell students about their classroom or playground.

Flickr User Brent Hoard/ "ECU School of Education Class Room" (cc by 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly has approved a measure that would overhaul the state’s inequitable school funding formula.

It passed with Democratic support along with State Rep. Michael McAuliffe, R-Chicago. He's the only statehouse Republican who represents a part of Chicago (the city's northwest side).

 

The GOP has labeled every proposed change to the funding formula as a bailout for Chicago Public Schools. But in the end, McAuliffe bucked his own party and gave the bill the bare minimum number of votes needed to pass the House.

Flickr user Eric E Castro / "The Tampon Fairy" (CC V 2.0)

The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation requiring public schools to provide free feminine hygiene products in girls' bathrooms.

It would apply for schools with grades six through 12.

State Rep. Litesa Wallace, a Democrat from Rockford, sponsored the legislation.

"This is another way to make sure that we not only are keeping the young lady discreet and with dignity; it's a public health issue,” she said.

Wallace said it's no different from supplying hand soap and paper towels.

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

Lawmakers of both parties -- and even Gov. Bruce Rauner -- agree that Illinois doesn't fund schools in an equitable manner.

 

But a bill that would overhaul the way Illinois funds public schools passed a procedural hurdle Wednesday with bipartisan support.

 

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

Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar of Bunker Hill is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of trying to kill his school-funding legislation.

  

He says the administration fed erroneous information to a Republican operative's website.

 

The story appears in the Kankakee Times, one of a dozen community news organs created by Dan Proft, who runs a political action committee supported by Rauner.

Dusty Rhodes/NPR Illinois

Commencement ceremonies took place on many college campuses this past weekend, including the University of Illinois, where a popular TV star spoke to graduates.

But the Black Congratulatory ceremony at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana was particularly unique. 

Rachel Otwell/NPR Illinois

Tenured and tenure-track faculty at the University of Illinois Springfield went on strike Tuesday, saying 20 months of negotiations with the administration have resulted in little progress.

More than 160 tenured and tenure-track professors represented by University Professionals of Illinois have been negotiating almost two years in an effort to get personnel policies included in a contract. 

Union President Lynn Fisher, a professor of sociology and anthropology, says the University of Illinois has a history of resisting such demands.

No school would lose money under a new school funding plan filed in the Illinois Senate, but additional payments would range from a few cents to more than a thousand dollars per pupil.

Republican State Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, released details of his new school funding plan Wednesday.

The spreadsheet posted on his website shows, for example, that suburban Hinsdale would gain $1.50  per child while East St. Louis (where 99 percent of students are low-income) would gain about $260 per pupil.

uis.edu

Back when it was called Sangamon State University, the Springfield campus had a faculty union.

But since joining the University of Illinois system, professors have been without a bargaining unit. For more than a year, they’ve been trying to get an agreement that would retain the rights they had before.

Now, frustrated by the slow pace of talks, they’ve voted to authorize a strike.

Kristi Barnwell, a history professor, says negotiations have thus far been more about grievance procedures and tenure, than dollars and cents.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Illinois lawmakers from both political parties seem to be gathering behind a new school funding plan called the "evidence-based model." Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, announced he plans to file his own version in the Senate.

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

Seventeen school superintendents sued the state of Illinois Wednesday. They're asking Governor Bruce Rauner and the state board of education to come up with a funding formula that would help schools meet the state's learning standards.  

The superintendents say the lawsuit is their last resort given Illinois' notoriously inequitable funding formula and years of reduced state spending,

 

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.​

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