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Illinois school personnel can now temporarily use a type of previously-banned physical restraint on students if necessary. A few state lawmakers Monday said they’re “disappointed” in that decision to roll back the ban.

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Documents illustrate what happens when a student is put in an isolation room.

It’s a few minutes before 10 a.m. and a student at Circuit Breaker School in Peru, Illinois is trying to escape the classroom. The child hits and kicks the glass window on the door, and doesn’t respond well to redirection and choices offered by staff. So staff takes the student to the timeout room, where the child screams and hits their head against the floor for two minutes.

The Illinois State Board of Education today amended emergency rules that had banned the use of certain physical restraints in schools. Those rules had been enacted two weeks ago in response to an investigation published by the Chicago Tribune and ProPublica documenting thousands of incidents where children with special needs were put into seclusion rooms at school.

 

The board had reacted to that report by banning not only seclusion rooms, but also the use of prone and supine physical restraints, which can make it difficult for children to breathe or communicate normally. 

 

Kevin Rubenstein, president of the Illinois Alliance of Administrators of Special Education, says those new rules had ripple effects.

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The agency overseeing what’s been dubbed the nation’s worst-funded public-school system plans to hire “storytellers” to relay tales of successes in Illinois classrooms.

The post on the Illinois State Board of Education’s website seeks applicants for storytellers at a minimum salary of $47,400. Spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews said Tuesday that three will be hired.

At the state Capitol, lawmakers are stymied by technical glitches in a landmark school-funding overhaul they approved last spring to help bring fairness to the country’s most inequitable financial system.

Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

If you’ve seen Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign commercials, you might think the school funding issue was settled last summer. But as often happens with complex legislation, it was followed by a “trailer” bill cleaning up some technical language.

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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.

ilga.gov

An Illinois State Board of Elections hearing officer is expected to issue a recommendation next month regarding allegations that the state's auditor general violated campaign finance disclosure laws while serving as a Democratic state representative.

  

Hours of testimony were heard Thursday on the issue of whether Frank Mautino's now-defunct campaign committee must update spending reports to provide additional details about how money was spent.

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The Chicago Urban League and the Illinois State Board of Education have reached a tentative settlement of a lawsuit that claims discriminatory school funding.

In the settlement, the board agrees that, if appropriations for schools are inadequate, it will either cap per-pupil cuts or use another methodology to distribute funds "based on the needs of each school district and its students" instead of simply prorating the allotments.

A complaint before the state board of elections against State Sen. Sam McCann has been dropped for technical reasons, but that's not the end of the story.

Attorney Dan Fultz, who represents the Jacksonville man who filed the complaint, says a new one is coming. He says the re-filing will contain new allegations, but wouldn't give specifics. 

Illinois elections officials are confident no voter data were compromised this summer when a hacker was able to see information on about 200,000 registered voters.

    

Ken Menzel is general counsel for the Illinois State Board of Elections. He says the online voter-registration system was shut down July 13 when officials noted an unusually high amount of traffic. Security was improved.

The FBI warned state officials Monday to boost their security. State election websites in Arizona and Illinois experienced hack-related shutdowns earlier this summer.

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A measure giving Illinois voters a chance to decide if an independent commission should draw the state's political boundaries is a step closer to the ballot.

The State Board of Elections voted Monday that the group called the Independent Map Amendment appeared to have enough valid signatures for the constitutional amendment and is ready for ballot certification in August.

However, a lawsuit against the amendment is pending which could keep it from the ballot. In 2014, a judge ruled a similar measure was unconstitutional.

One of the few areas that's been exempt from the state's budget impasse -- now in its ninth month -- is public schools, the institutions that prepare children for college.

 

Of course, to get into college, you need to take an entrance exam, like the ACT or the SAT, and that's traditionally funded by the Illinois State Board of Education.

 

But not this year.

"Exams Start... Now" by Flickr User Ryan McGilchrist / (CC BY 2.0)

A new college entrance exam is coming to Illinois. The test known as the SAT is replacing the ACT.

The Illinois State Board of Education announced Thursday it will begin negotiating a contract with the College Board, which administers the SAT.

The announcement comes after a protest filed by ACT was denied.

The state's contract with ACT expired last year.

College Board spokesman Zach Goldberg says the SAT focuses “on the few things that evidence shows matter most for college and career readiness.''

ISBE.net

Members of Illinois's House Government Administration Committee hoped to grill Superintendent Tony Smith about expensive perks he gets on top of his $225,000 salary. But the invitation was declined by Board Chair James Meeks, who sent a letter to the committee saying he wanted to discuss the request with the school board. 

A day later at the state board’s meeting, Smith referred reporters to Meeks for an answer of why they didn’t show up.

"So the conversation to have with the chairman, about the choices, like how we're responding? You can ask him," Smith said.

Education Bill Signals New Funding Strategy

Jun 25, 2015
WUIS

Governor Bruce Rauner has approved the portion of the state budget earmarked for public schools. His move yesterday ensures schools will be able to open on time.

The legislation even increases funding for education by more than $200 million dollars over the previous year.

Rauner, a Republican, says he still wants to send even more money to schools. At the same time, he is already taking steps to cut other state services --- including a program that helps working, low-income families pay for daycare.

Flickr user Daniel Borman / "Money, Money, Money" (CC BY 2.0)

Illinois schools were not spared from the recent state budget cuts. But a $97 million fund was established to help the most cash-strapped districts pay their bills until the end of the school year.

Schools that qualify have limited local resources, a higher concentration of low-income students and very little cash on hand.

Robert Wolfe, who is the chief financial officer of the state school board, says the last minute cuts will affect every school district.

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.”

State of Illinois

State education leaders urge Illinoisans to weigh in on their priorities for education as the state develops the 2016 K-12 budget.

The State Board of Education will hold public hearings to gather opinions and ideas about resources and funding. This year the hearings will also offer attendees an opportunity to give feedback on Senate Bill 16, which would distribute state dollars more equitably among public school districts.