Education

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Lawmakers approved a state budget more than a week ago, but that legislation requires enactment of a new school-funding plan.

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner held news conferences Monday to “demand, not request” that the bill be sent to his desk so he can change it as he sees fit. Democrats have delayed sending it along.  

Democrats have passed such a plan through both chambers, but Rauner says he’ll veto parts of it because it gives too much money to Chicago Public Schools.

"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.

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)

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.

Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner's chief education adviser says the governor won't support an overhaul of the Illinois school-funding formula if it benefits Chicago Public Schools "at the expense" of others.

The Illinois Senate approved legislation Wednesday aimed at eliminating the disparity in spending between affluent school districts and those serving poorer communities. Similar legislation has been introduced in the House.

Both Democratic proposals would establish a funding target for each school district that reflects the needs of its students.

Carl Nelson/WNIJ

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner hosts a statewide school visit Thursday … but maybe not in the way you think.

Gov. Rauner invited school classrooms across Illinois to join him during his visit. This time around, though, his visit will be through a Facebook Live stream.

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

New information about Illinois senate Republicans’ school funding plan were revealed Wednesday.

One week after State Sen. Jason Barickman held a press conference to announce his own school funding plan, he filed two amendments totaling 500 pages. Barickman’s plan echoes many of the themes contained in a measure filed by his Democratic colleague Andy Manar but eliminates the block grant for Chicago Public Schools​.

His plan also offers school districts a choice about certain unfunded mandates. The two senators had tried previously to craft a bipartisan plan.

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.

"Controller gaming" by Flickr User Anton Porsche / (CC X 2.0)

Illinois College will become one of a small group of higher-education institutions offering scholarships for playing video games.

The Herald & Review reports that the growth of esports, or competitive video games, has colleges and universities developing teams to compete as prizes are growing and sponsors are taking notice. The program begins in the fall.

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

10 school districts across the state are participating in a pilot project with the Illinois Board of Education.

Chicago is participating, along with areas such as Round Lake, Kankakee, and Peoria.  State Superintendent Tony Smith says the pilot initiative could have implications for districts across Illinois

“We think that there’s a lot of folks out there that have been doing work like this for a while and we want to build more of a community of practice for it. And we do think that it will have a big impact on the direction the state goes in understanding this.”

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.

"A Teacher's Library" by Flickr User Angie Garrett / (CC X 2.0)

Illinois House members are picking up education funding reform where they say a commission convened by the governor left off.

Lawmakers gathered Tuesday to discuss proposals to revise the way Illinois finances its public schools. They plan this spring to write legislation to overhaul what many say is an outdated education funding model.

"Handwriting Tag Game" by Flickr User RomitaGirl67 / (CC X 2.0)

Parents alarmed by the realization that their teenagers cannot decipher cursive handwriting have inspired one Illinois lawmaker to propose requiring schools to offer a course on the art of the flowing font.

Kids use computer keyboards for most communication these days, but what if they need to sign a legal document or read a letter from grandma?

State Representative Chris Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, says they’re going to need cursive for that. He’s sponsoring a measure that would ensure students receive at least one class in old-school slanted script. 

Recent data shows more Illinois students are taking Advanced Placement tests.  

The classes and accompanying exams can help them earn college credit.  The State Board of Education is working to ensure more low-income and minority students take the tests, and spokeswoman Jackie Matthews says the effort is going well.  

"The State Board is moving some unused federal funds directly into the AP test fee program to keep the fee for low-income students at $15 per tests, to make sure these tests remain accessible to all students."  

Normally, it cost $93 for each exam.   

"A Teacher's Library" by Flickr User Angie Garrett / (CC X 2.0)

An Illinois House committee has cleared a proposal that would require public universities to admit first-time freshman applicants who finish with a GPA in the top 10 percent of their high school's graduating class.

The News-Gazette reports that the House Higher Education Committee passed the bill Wednesday despite opposition from the University of Illinois and the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

WVIK

An Illinois legislator is calling for free tuition at state universities.

With the pile of unpaid Illinois bills topping $10 billion, Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, acknowledges it’s not a short-term goal.

“But, I want that to be the guide star. I want that to be the objective that we work toward,” he said. “And this year, I want us to pass something that’s going to make college a little more affordable and reduce the burden of debt on working families.”

He declined to give any specifics on what that “something” might be.

"IMG_4491" by Flickr User alkruse24 / (CC X 2.0)

A survey of Illinois public school districts finds administrators are scrambling to find substitute teachers for as many as 600 classrooms a day.

The review of 400 districts that the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools released Tuesday reveals that teachers call in absences more than 16,000 times per week. Administrators have trouble finding enough people to fill in for nearly 20 percent of them.

Jeff Vose is association president. The regional superintendent for Sangamon and Menard counties says stricter licensing requirements are to blame.

mhec.org

Illinois Board of Higher Education Director James Applegate has announced he will be stepping down from his post next month.

Applegate announced his resignation in IBHE's bi-weekly report Friday. He says he will be leaving to ``pursue other opportunities to serve American higher education.''

The 65-year-old began working with the state in February 2014. He made $200,000 per year in his position as executive director.

In the newsletter, Applegate noted achievements during his tenure, which he says include raising grant funds to support college readiness and access.

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.

Nearly 150 Illinois public school districts gave bonuses to teachers and administrators last school year.

The Chicago Tribune says the 144 districts represent 20 percent of all districts. Citing state data, the newspaper reports about 3,100 people received a total of $5.5 million. The average was $1,750.

Bonuses have become a common way to inspire educators to improve student achievement. But researchers say results are varied, and critics wonder whether it's a good use of tax dollars.

First E-Learning Day Used In Illinois Pilot Program

Dec 20, 2016
Early Morning Chill by Bryan Alexander/CC BY 2.0

One of three school districts participating in an Illinois e-learning day pilot program got to test it out on Monday.

The e-learning day pilot program was meant to provide schools an alternative to snow days and a way for districts to prevent adding days to the end of the school year because of those snow days. West Chicago High School District 94 used its first e-learning day instead of a school cancellation on Monday due to extreme low temperatures.

Flickr User Matt Long/CC 2.0

Wisconsin Representative Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, is drafting legislation that would require random drug screening for high school students taking part in extracurricular activities.  

Lydia Urban Academy

The Lydia Urban Academy is in danger of closing its doors before the end of the school year.    

The nontraditional Christian high school serves about 20 students with social, behavioral, and learning disabilities that make it difficult for them to succeed in a traditional setting.  Some are escaping from bullying, while others are referred by Rosecrance Health Network or the state juvenile detention system. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Imagine an object that could help some students improve their attendance. Other students will learn leadership skills. Still others will discover how to become valuable employees some day. And everyone smells better.

That object? A basket of laundry. A humble chore is changing lives in one high school.

Beloit Memorial High School looks a lot like the old factories that sprawl across this city just north of  the Illinois/Wisconsin border. It’s huge.

"Money" By Flickr User Pictures of Money / (CC BY 2.0)

The Illinois Board of Higher Education has authorized $17 million in emergency funding to help three financially strapped state universities through the end of the year.

The Chicago Tribune reports the board approved the measure unanimously on Wednesday. Under the agreement, Western Illinois University gets $8.4 million, Eastern Illinois University receives about $5.6 million, and Chicago State University gets around $3 million.

The funding can be used only to pay down costs incurred this year.

Flickr user Adikos / "Female Typing" (CC BY 2.0)

Three school districts are going into their second year for a three-year state e-learning day trial program. But they ran into an obstacle in monitoring the progress of the program.

All three districts participating in the trial program have not been able to use any e-learning days. That’s because superintendents from Gurnee School District 56, Community High School District 94 in West Chicago, and Leyden High School District 212 in Franklin Park say they didn’t use any snow days last school year.

State Report Card Shows Students Fall Short Of Academic Benchmarks

Oct 31, 2016
State of Illinois

The Illinois State Board of Education releases its 2016 report cards today. They analyze how well the state’s public schools are educating Illinois students. 

More than 60 percent of students failed to meet state benchmarks in math and English. That’s according to results from the second year using the standardized test known as PARCC.

Board of Education analyst John Barker says PARCC gives Illinois a clearer picture of the state’s challenges.

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