Education

Jessie Schlacks / WNIJ

The Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, is replacing the federal No Child Left Behind laws for K-through-12 schools.

The State Board of Education is drafting a plan to implement next fall; it includes alternatives to measuring accountability and academic success.

DeKalb-area State Representative Bob Pritchard helped organize the listening session. He says developing the education plan is a complex issue for everyone.

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%.  

NIU Hosts First-Ever Safety Awareness Day Next Week

Sep 27, 2016
NIU Police

The Northern Illinois University police department will host its first-ever Safety Awareness Day next week.

NIU officer Weyni Langdon says the fair’s purpose is for new members of the community – like college freshmen who haven’t been away from home before – to familiarize themselves with police departments in the surrounding area and get necessary safety resource information all in one place.

“At the beginning of the year, we have a lot of questions about which agency is which – you know, ‘Are you NIU police? Are you DeKalb police? Are you county?’” Langdon said.

Flickr user Forsaken Fotos / "Itt Tech tv" (CC V 2.0)

Nearly 1,000 Illinois students may have to continue their studies elsewhere after ITT Technical Institute announced its closure last week.

Jeff Bossert

  Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and Senator Dick Durbin went to Parkland College to discuss education costs.   

Both Democrats  are sponsoring the “In The Red Act.”  This legislation would provide federal funding for two years’ free tuition at community colleges.  Durbin says if passed, the Act would help students, but only if they put in the work.

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

Nearly 15 percent of northern Illinois school districts still have not complied with the state mandate for public school physical education class five days a week.

Thirty public school districts in the WNIJ listening area still do not have physical education classes five days a week. They all received waivers which have now expired – some as long ago as 2002. 

Wisconsin has Illinois beat when it comes to some state school rankings, according to one report.

When it comes to variables like drop-out rate, school safety and test scores, Wisconsin ranked 5th overall in the country – whereas Illinois ranked 13th. That’s according to a WalletHub report, which uses data from national collection agencies like the U.S. Census Bureau, the National Center for Educational Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

The Northern Illinois University Anthropology and Theatre & Dance departments will be without a designated academic building for at least one more year.

The renovated NIU Stevens Building was supposed to be finished by this fall, but the state budget impasse delayed the project.

NIU spokesman Joe King says that, if the school gets funding by next month, the “best case scenario” would be that the construction will be done by fall 2017. But he says the longer it takes to pass a state budget, the longer those students don’t get those “first-rate facilities.”

The Streator Elementary District board is considering applying with the state for a waiver to pursue the shortened week.

Officials say it could result in more than $300,000 in savings.

The district faces declining enrollment and financial difficulties.

In fact, the district faces state intervention if it doesn’t resolve its budget issues.

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

Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis is pushing Governor Bruce Rauner’s plan to make sure schools open on time this fall.

The Republican has called for sending an extra 100 million dollars to schools — the one area of the budget he has not held up in order to pass his legislative agenda.

In a conference call with reporters today, Purvis deflected questions about Rauner’s remarks this week, in which he described some Chicago Public Schools as “crumbling prisons.”

As the deadline for a state budget draws near, public school systems are watching closely.  

School administrators are concerned about changes to the state funding formula, which determines how money is distributed among the state’s many districts.  In the legislature, the debate has been over how money could be shifted to provide more equal levels of funding.  However, two superintendents in Northern Illinois think there’s more to the issue.  Retired Riverdale Elementary School Superintendent Sarah Willy says it’s impossible to evaluate the formula without full funding. 

NIU Spring Graduates Recognized For Achievements

May 14, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

More than 2,500 students were honored during the Saturday undergraduate commencement ceremonies at Northern Illinois University.

Friends, family, and relatives filled the stands of the Convocation Center for graduate activities. 

NIU President Doug Baker acknowledged three students for what he calls notable achievements. ROTC graduate Maria Colompos was one of those students recognized for their accomplishments while attending NIU. 

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

63 years ago, the Korean War came between a Northern Illinois University graduate and his cap and gown. Now, he’s back on campus to make the long-delayed march with his fellow grads. 

In May of 1953, Gus Trantham’s parents took a train from Chicago to DeKalb to accept his diploma in a ceremony he couldn’t attend.  Trantham was in the Navy by then, behind enemy lines in Korea.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University administrators approved parking permit price increases for the coming year. 

The last time NIU increased parking permit prices was in 2011. NIU officials say the hike is to help raise additional revenue for the $5 million backlog of necessary parking lot repairs. 

The change affects students and faculty who wish to purchase parking permits. 

Reserved parking prices were increased more than other permits; remote parking passes will now be free.

skillsusa.org

Several students at Kishwaukee College will get to show off their technical skills in a national contest next month.

Skills USA is an organization for students enrolled in technical programs including welding or nursing. Every year, the group holds competitions that give those students an opportunity to showcase their talents in events like mock crime scenes or repairing a dent in a car.

Vicki Snyder Chura / Rochelle High School

A tradition continues at Rochelle High School this morning: it’s “Ag Day,” a showcase for the area’s farming heritage.

Non-farmers will get the chance to climb on tractors, check out the school’s greenhouse, and learn which animals you can pet -- and which ones you shouldn’t.

U.S. News & World Report

A few high schools in the WNIJ listening area ranked in the state’s top 50. That’s according to two national lists released yesterday.

Those schools include ones in Saint Charles, Cary, Barrington, Aurora and Naperville.

NIU May Soon Install More Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

Apr 13, 2016
Katie Finlon / WNIJ

Northern Illinois University is in the early stages of a proposal that would implement gender-neutral bathrooms.

NIU’s chief diversity officer Vernese Edghill Walden says the proposal is still in the planning stage, but a draft should be completed sometime during the summer or fall semesters.

Kristen Myers directs the Gender and Woman Studies department at NIU. She says the school has ranked as one of the most LGBT-friendly schools in the past … but the only thing that would help is gender-neutral bathrooms.

Northern Illinois University

The student senate at Northern Illinois University appointed its first female speaker last week.

NIU student association senator Christine Wang begins her tenure as speaker this summer. She says she’s happy with the progress of the student association senate in selecting its first woman speaker. 

“It’s a huge move for NIU,” Wang said. “It showcases a lot of our diversity and how much we emphasize on it. I think it means that we’re moving forward with the changing dynamic that is our society today.”

Illinois college students will march for higher education funding and MAP grants in Springfield next week.

At least 60 students plan to take part in the march. That’s according to the march’s Facebook event.

The “March for MAP” was created by a University of Illinois Springfield student. The event was inspired by the legislature's failure to override Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto to a bill to fund MAP grants.

YouTube user Ford Scholars / "Jefferson Fitness Trail" Screen Shot

Two northern Illinois high schools have students competing for a $10,000 prize in a national STEM competition. The money would go to help implement the winning group’s project proposals that could benefit their schools and the community.

There are ten finalists in the Ford STEM Community Challenge. They include students from Jefferson and East High Schools in Rockford.

Katie Finlon / WNIJ

A lack of funding for the Monetary Award Program -- or MAP grants -- have cost Illinois public universities more than $72 million overall.

That's according to data provided by each of the state universities and their campuses.

The Illinois House passed a bill earlier this month that would help fund the MAP grants. That's in light of the state's budget impasse.

The legislation was introduced to the state Senate this week, but public universities that temporarily covered those costs still haven’t been reimbursed.

Higher Education Leaders Discuss Budget Fears In Springfield

Mar 10, 2016
State of Illinois

Illinois lawmakers heard Thursday from an assortment of higher education leaders asking for funding.

They used terms like “starving,” “dismantling” and “economic suicide” as they tried to persuade state senators to find some way to heal the budget impasse. 

One of the last witnesses was Eric Zarnikow, director of the state agency that runs the Monetary Award Program. MAP grants help needy college kids with tuition.

Zarnikow quoted his mother, who he says always warned him not to eat the seed corn.

Chicago State University had a visit from the Higher Learning Commission this week regarding its accreditation status. That came after the school declared financial crisis about a month ago due to the Illinois state budget impasse.

But how does state funding affect university accreditation?

Higher education officials say taking away accreditation is generally treated as a last resort. But if a school loses its state funding, it could put its status at risk.

Susan Stephens / WNIJ

A program designed to educate -- and keep -- engineers in Rockford officially kicked off its six-million dollar fundraising campaign Tuesday. The joint project between Rock Valley College and Northern Illinois University is already halfway to its goal.

Chicago State University won’t have funds to operate by March 1 if  state money is not released, officials there have said.

A Chicago area transgender student whose fight to use a girls' locker room sparked a national debate will be allowed access on Friday.

The move follows a long battle with federal authorities and public meetings.

Palatine-based Township High School District 211 entered an agreement with federal officials last month after the student filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights.

State of Illinois

Most school districts in Illinois would get an increase in state aid if a budget request approved Wednesday by the State Board of Education is adopted.

Only the wealthiest districts would see a decrease, and it would be less than 1 percent. 

State funding for public schools has remained stagnant or decreased for the past five years. Districts with low property values have no way to supplement that aid, leaving Illinois with one of the most inequitable funding scenarios in the nation.

Many Illinois colleges and universities fronted the money for income-based Monetary Award Program grants to students in the fall semester. That's despite the lack of a state budget and no assurance that they'd be reimbursed. 

Major schools will continue covering them for the spring, although others are telling students they can't cover the debt for the coming semester. 

The list below shows a sampling of schools, their enrollment, the number of students receiving MAP grants in the fall, and the total amount covered.

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