Dusty Rhodes

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

Legislation that would temper the way schools discipline students passed the Illinois House and Senate and now awaits the governor’s approval.

Suspensions and expulsions could be used only as a last resort.

Sarah Johnson, one of the youth leaders of the group, said the plan is designed to change the culture of schools.

“Our education system should be wanting us to stay in school and right now they’re pushing us out of school. So the environment that we’re in, that our young people are in right now, is not an environment of learning. It’s an environment of push-out."

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

More than 30 Illinois school officials traveled to Springfield yesterday to tell how budget cuts are affecting their districts. 

These days, it seems like every agency in Illinois is complaining about cutbacks. Public school officials, however, are seasoned veterans, having seen the state slash their funding repeatedly over the past few years.

Now, they argue how the pain is distributed. 

A plan that would limit the use of out-of-school suspensions and expulsions is moving through the Illinois legislature. 

The measure would end zero-tolerance policies and the practice of charging fees for minor infractions and emphasize in-house measures over expulsions.

A Chicago youth group pushed the changes for the past two years. Along the way, they dropped a component that sought to limit offenses warranting arrests on campus.

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

A measure pending in the Illinois legislature would help high school students know what kind of college credit to expect for their advanced placement test scores.

High school students taking AP exams know they have to score at least a three on a five-point scale to pass, but they don't know which Illinois universities will give them credit for that score.

A score of three on a Biology test might earn college credit at Western Illinois University, for example, but not at Illinois State. Same goes for all 34 AP tests across all Illinois universities.  

Loyola University

The Illinois senate recently passed a measure that would provide free GED tests and college tuition to people who have been wrongfully imprisoned. 

The grants would require legislative appropriation, and recipients would have to obtain a certificate of innocence from the circuit court. 

Dan Kotowski is a Chicago Democrat who sponsored the plan.

conference.incschools.org

A survey commissioned by the Illinois Network of Charter Schools shows support for school choice.

The poll questioned mostly white voters. Most were reached via landlines and were outside of Cook County, where the vast majority of Illinois charter schools are located. 

But it’s inside Cook County where the support for expanding charter schools was the lowest at 57 percent.

Representative David McSweeney, a Republican from Barrington Hills, says he would support legislation to expand charters because these independently-run schools give families options.

I should begin with a word of warning: This story contains several F-words -- and by that, I mean facts, figures and school funding formulas. These have been known to befuddle the very state officials in charge of understanding this stuff. For example, here’s Curt Bradshaw, a third-year member of the Illinois State Board of Education (commonly referred to as ISBE), thinking out loud at the last board meeting: 

Illinois lawmakers are also considering proposals to rewrite the way the state funds public schools. 

Marguerite Roza directs the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University.

Roza gave the State School Board two keys for a good funding formula: Keep it generic, and tie every dollar to students instead of programs.

Board members plan to discuss Roza’s recommendations at their meeting next month. 

Youngstown State University - Randy Dunn

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to cut higher education by more than 30 percent. Presidents of three state universities appeared before lawmakers to explore ways to minimize such drastic cuts. 

Committee chair Kenneth Dunkin, a Chicago Democrat, challenged the members to make their decisions based on information, rather than along party lines.

Rehearsing her students for the big spring musical, Kim Mandrell has crossed two huge worries off her list: She's decided not to have Mary Poppins fly - and this year, for the first time ever, she doesn't have to fret about the safety of the audience.

When Gov. Bruce Rauner pledged to increase school funding by $300 million, educators seemed unimpressed.

They’re more excited about House Speaker Michael Madigan’s proposed 3 percent surcharge on income greater than a million dollars. That would provide about a billion dollars to schools.

That move would require a constitutional amendment, but it has gotten backing from a variety of education groups that are often at odds with one another -- teachers unions, school administrators, and everyone in between.

YouTube

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner appointed Beth Purvis to be his point person on education. She's the CEO of Chicago International Charter School and was a member of Rauner's transition team. 

At a meeting of school officials yesterday in Springfield, Purvis fielded questions from the audience. 

"Probably the question that everyone has in the room: What will the governor be sharing with us tomorrow as to how he will fund these plans?"

"I don't like to start with a no comment, but to be candid, I don't know."

A new plan to change the school funding formula is emerging in the legislature. Jason Barickman, a Republican state senator from Bloomington, plans to introduce a bill, which he believes will be supported by Governor Bruce Rauner.

“Think about something else he said yesterday, in the context of his criminal justice reforms. In announcing those reforms, the governor embraced an evidence-based model, and that’s what this is.”

    

The recent surge in cases of measles across the United States has focused attention on the choices families make about immunizing their children. Like most parents, the young married couple I’m about to introduce you to has tried to do everything possible to ensure their baby is healthy. 

"We made our own food," the dad says.

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

Senator Andy Manar has re-introduced a measure proposing to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. This time, it has new formulas and a request for more money. 

Like the version debated last session, which passed the Senate but stalled in the House, this formula would give more money to districts with low property values and high rates of poverty. 

Representative Sue Scherer, a Democrat from Decatur and a former teacher, talked about the inequity from personal experience.

 

 

Parents and educators alike have been questioning the increasing number of standardized tests now required in public schools. A measure filed by Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi would give moms and dads a way to allow their kid to skip these exams. 

Steven Salaita, the professor whose social media posts cost him a job at the University of Illinois, has filed suit in federal court against the university Board of Trustees, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, other university officials and "unknown donors."

University spokesman Tom Hardy released a statement saying the university will "vigorously defend against meritless claims" and citing several of the tweets that persuaded the Board of Trustees to reject, by a vote of 8-1, the appointment that he had been offered and accepted.

Illinois has a new set of rules for when and how the state can take over failing school districts. It was signed into law Monday by Gov. Pat Quinn before he left office. 

The law, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Heather Steans, re-prioritizes the board’s responsibilities.

“It really is to narrow and make it clear what the criteria are for both intervening in a district -- and exiting.”

University of Illinois / illinois.edu

The University of Illinois plans to hold basic tuition steady for in-state students enrolling in the fall. Students at the Chicago campus will see an increase for certain majors. That bump is called a “differential.” 

University spokesman Tom Hardy says U of I, like many other colleges, uses differentials on all three campuses to raise money for engineering, business administration, nursing and other subjects for more than a decade.

ilga.gov

Illinois public schools are funded by two main sources--property taxes and state money. State senator Andy Manar, a Democrat from Macoupin County, introduced legislation that would change that formula. 

It didn't make it through the General Assembly last session, but Manar feels confident the issue will be debated again by the new legislature.

“There's only a few people that believe that the state aid formula today, as it exists, works well. And those are the ones that benefit at the expense of the masses from today's system.”

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

Illinois students are scheduled to take the new Common Core test this spring, despite a growing chorus of parents and educators opposing it.

To get some idea of how controversial the test is, consider this: The number of states that have legalized marijuana use -- 23 -- is double the number of states that have agreed to use this test -- just 11. Of those 11, only eight have agreed to use both the elementary and high school portions of the test. Illinois is one of these states.

When you think of a report card, you think of a basic form that provides average test scores and little more. But the new online report cards for each Illinois public school offer more granular data, such as teacher retention and principal turnover rates, the percentage of high school freshmen deemed "on track" for graduation, and even survey results for how safe students feel at school.

With the rise of computers and electronic communications, educators have all but written off penmanship. And kids who don’t learn to write cursive tend to have trouble reading cursive. 

Last week, I went around torturing teenagers. I handed them a copy of a letter, written on stationery from the Executive Mansion and dated April 5, 1864. The letter is addressed to Mrs. Horace Mann.

It was especially challenging for 18-year-old Edwin Robles. 

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