Education

Illinois Department of Revenue

Beginning this week, people and corporations donating up to $1.3 million for private school scholarships can get a 75 percent credit toward their state income tax. This was a controversial but bipartisan concept, adopted last summer to help forge a compromise in a big overhaul of Illinois' school funding plan.

Such programs have taken off in other states, but it’s off to a slower start here.

Katie Finlon/WNIJ

Sycamore High School students have spoken: The majority are in favor of a flexible schedule during school days.

More than 80 percent of all Sycamore High School students, families and teachers say they would be in favor of a flexible schedule during school days. That’s according to survey data collected by administration recently.

Tim Carlson, principal of Sycamore High School, says he is all for anything that could better prepare students for the modern workforce, especially when it comes to teaching kids how to better manage their free time.

Rockford Public Schools

A Rockford school has the highest composite score in Illinois on this year’s state standardized tests.

Rockford school officials say students at Thurgood Marshall School had the highest composite score of all Illinois public schools compared with other fifth- through eighth-graders in the state.

University of Illinois Police

An October 11 arraignment date has been set for Brendt Christensen, after a federal grand jury returned a new indictment accusing the alleged kidnapper of Yingying Zhang of murdering her as well.

New NIU Stevens Building May Be Open By Next Summer

Oct 4, 2017
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University’s new theater and anthropology building may be ready for students and faculty by next summer.

NIU spokesman Joe King says he walked through the NIU Stevens Building project site recently. He says the difference between the old and new buildings already is astounding, with a large anthropology lecture hall, brighter labs, bigger theater performance spaces and better classrooms all the way around.

King says the renovation project is scheduled for completion by next spring, but not necessarily in time to house classes for either department.

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

Illinois education officials say the elimination of some requirements for teacher licenses has streamlined the licensing process and hasn't sacrificed the state's high standards.

The Chicago Tribune reports the changes to the licensing laws began in 2011. Some allow aspiring teachers to bypass certain coursework and exams.

Some administrators say those changes have helped fill jobs in areas with teacher shortages.

Rockford Public Schools

State Sen. Chapin Rose, R-Mahomet, said he's filing a measure designed to launch major changes in higher education.

Citing the high out-migration of students to other states, Rose wants to make it easier for Illinois students to enter state universities.

He aims to create a common application form for all 12 public university campuses and guarantee acceptance for any student who finished high school with a B average.

NIU Researchers Will Test Health App Effectiveness

Sep 27, 2017
Flickr user Leonardo Angelini / "#fitness" (CC V 2.0)

Northern Illinois University health and computer science researchers want to test how a fitness app they developed works.

Researchers say they hope to have 100 people participate in the test. The eight-week study looks at how fitness apps and health behavior may be connected.

Participants would download the app to their phones, use it when they work out, and see how effective it is. The features would be adjusted continually by researchers.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Students at Kishwaukee College will get a financial reward if they earn a C or better in their credit courses this academic year.

Kishwaukee College board members announced the Student Success Scholarship, which will cover half of the ten-dollar-per-credit hour tuition hike they approved in March. The scholarships will be credited to qualified students' accounts after final grades are posted.

Susan Stephens

Illinois Public Universities - Fall 2017 Enrollment
Infogram

There’s a three percent increase in freshman enrollment at Northern Illinois University this year.

NIU Biology Professor Gets $900K Grant For Research

Sep 6, 2017
Northern Illinois University

The National Science Foundation has awarded a research grant to a Northern Illinois University biology professor for more than $900,000.

Associate Prof. Yanbin Yin says the research purposes the grant will fund are two-fold. The goal is to better understand how plant enzymes produce and break down carbohydrates and to develop a software to help scientists better analyze that kind of data.

“So knowing which genes include those carbohydrate-active enzymes will be very useful for their downstream manifest, like design better biofuel,” Yin said.

state of Illinois

A day after praising a tentative deal in Illinois' school funding fight, Gov. Bruce Rauner is giving it mixed reviews.

Bipartisan legislative leaders say they've outlined an agreement to fund schools, but details are being worked out.

On Thursday Rauner applauded leaders' efforts on "historic" funding reform. But on Friday he said there's still too much money for Chicago and he'll try to fix problems with "subsequent legislation."

AFSCME Wins Advisory Ruling Against NIU Parking Hike

Aug 25, 2017
niu.edu / afscme.org

An Illinois state labor board has ruled that its General Counsel should side with a Northern Illinois University employee union regarding the raise of parking pass prices. But the office says it’s not the final word on the case.

The Illinois Educational Labor Relations Board office says the legally-binding decision is expected to come later next month.

NIU raised the price of parking permits by $19 in July 2016. That was after NIU and the newly-formed AFSCME bargaining unit – which includes clerical and administrative professionals – entered negotiations in February 2016.

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

Illinois legislative leaders say they've reached a tentative agreement in the state's school funding fight, but details have not been released.

Senate Republican Leader Bill Brady and House Republican Leader Jim Durkin issued a statement Thursday saying there's "agreement in principle," but wording won't be released until "drafts have been reviewed."

Democratic leaders Senate President John Cullerton and House Speaker Michael Madigan said in a statement that they've reached "agreement in concept."

Brian Mackey/Illinois Public Radio

Illinois Comptroller Susana Mendoza said it's likely she will have to skip another payment to the state’s public school districts as the result of a political fight between Democrats in the legislature and Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Mendoza said schools are expecting another payment from the state on Sunday.

"Every single child across the state of Illinois is being attacked right now because of nonsensical politics at play from Governor Rauner," Mendoza said.

Schools are not receiving state money while elected officials debate how best to distribute state money.

House Democrats called a vote Wednesday on legislation that incorporates the changes that Gov. Bruce Rauner wants in a new formula for financing public schools. Democrats said they wanted to gauge support for Rauner's ideas.

The governor issued an amendatory veto to a school-funding model he says unfairly favors Chicago schools and hinders state funding flexibility.

State Rep. Bob Pritchard, R-Hinckley, says he is optimistic that lawmakers can reach bipartisan agreement.

Jenna Dooley / WNIJ

Schools are still waiting on their main payment from Illinois government, as Democrats and Republicans continue to fight over how to divvy up the money.

The state Senate has announced it’ll take up the matter Sunday, but Illinois already missed a deadline.

That came and went Thursday, when state Comptroller Susana Mendoza said for the first time in Illinois history, her office could not send schools their first round of funding.

It’s the first time in Illinois history that K-12 schools did not receive a General State Aid payment. That’s because the legislature hasn’t yet decided whether to override Gov. Bruce Rauner’s veto of Senate Bill One.

But Comptroller Susana Mendoza did issue nearly $429 million in Mandated Categorical grants.

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

Local school districts would have to pay pension costs for all newly hired teachers if the General Assembly upholds Gov. Bruce Rauner's rewrite of the school funding plan known as Senate Bill One.

 

CPS To Lay Off Nearly 1,000 Staffers

Aug 7, 2017
CPS

Nearly 1,000 Chicago Public Schools employees — including 356 teachers — are getting pink slips due to projected decreases in student enrollment and program changes, the district announced on Monday.

CPS said this is the lowest number of teacher layoffs in a decade. High schools, which are seeing the greatest enrollment declines in the district, are the hardest hit. High schools will lose 466 support staff and 116 teachers. Historically, 60 percent of laid off teachers are rehired elsewhere in the district, CPS said.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

DeKalb County Judge Bradley Waller granted a temporary restraining order on Friday that bars Northern Illinois University from taking further action regarding former President Doug Baker’s severance package after his June resignation.

The university already paid Baker more than $600,000 on July 15.

DeKalb resident Misty Haji-Sheikh sued the NIU Board of Trustees in June for allegedly violating the Open Meetings Act. Waller ruled that NIU cannot take further action regarding Baker’s severance package before the next hearing on Sept. 8.

Illinois Republicans are pushing for a new program similar to school vouchers as part of negotiations over the education funding formula.

The impasse over the school funding overhaul is jeopardizing nearly all state money for schools.

Negotiations are continuing after Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed part of the bill.

Though Republican State Senator Jason Barickman accuses Democrats of changing their position.

Democrats Send School Funding Bill To Rauner

Jul 31, 2017

After some delay Monday, legislative Democrats sent the bill to fund K-12 public schools in Illinois to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

It came after hesitancy, since the Republican Governor vowed to use his veto power to strip some money for Chicago Public Schools. Democrats warned that would put funding for all of Illinois's roughly 850 districts at risk.

State of Illinois

Lawmakers in Springfield quickly adjourned after day two of a special session to resolve how the state funds schools.

The House and Senate met briefly but didn't take up any action.

Gov. Bruce Rauner summoned lawmakers with the task of resolving a fight over a new funding calculation; the Senate is holding off on sending it to Rauner.

He says he'll veto parts of the bill that give additional money for Chicago Public Schools.

Rauner chastised the Senate for not sending the bill already.

Jenna Dooley

After the first day of a special session on education, Democratic lawmakers and the Republican governor appear no closer to resolving the dispute that could hold up money for school districts.

    

 

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner continues to demand Democrats send him the funding plan so he can change it and remove additional money for Chicago teacher pensions. 

 

"There is no education funding available for our children, and unless we fix that our schools will not open on time," he said. 

 

State of Illinois

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling lawmakers back from their summer vacation to deal with a new school funding plan in special session starting Wednesday.

The state cannot send money to schools until a funding plan gets signed into law, which could jeopardize whether schools will start on time.

Rauner wants to veto parts of Senate Bill 1 because he says it takes money from low-income children to pay Chicago teacher pensions. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

The Rockford Public School District is hosting a teacher job fair for those looking to move forward in their careers in sculpting young minds.

Some specific areas of teaching will be special targets, but Mercedes Brain – the Director of Talent Acquisition for Rockford Public Schools – says that shouldn’t discourage anyone from attending the fair.

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

The state schools superintendent says in a memo to local administrators that the state will issue $5.2 billion it controls even if there's no revised financing system signed into law.

The Democratic Legislature approved a state budget that requires Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner to distribute general state aid through a new “evidence-based'' method to ensure money gets to the neediest schools. But the method is in separate legislation it hasn't sent to Rauner.

"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.

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

A northern Illinois community college is taking steps to make textbooks more affordable for students.

McHenry County College said the school could save the student body an estimated $400,000 on textbooks per school year.

This follows a week-long Textbook Cost Reduction Camp held for faculty members in all areas of study.

The camp set out to educate faculty members on textbook alternatives and prepare them to introduce new technology into the classroom.

The faculty-led initiative analyzed 13 courses to find high-quality resources for students at a lower cost.

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