Dusty Rhodes

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Illinois has traditionally used a competitive grant process to parcel out money for preschools. In the past, that competition was limited to programs that had a history of getting state funds. But this year, after the legislature appropriated an extra $50 million for preschools, the Illinois State Board of Education threw the competition open to all programs.

Once applications were reviewed and ranked, preschools around the state were shocked to learn they wouldn’t be getting the state funding they expected. Some weren’t funded because their grant applications scored below ISBE’s threshold; others weren’t funded simply because the appropriated amount couldn’t cover the demand.

Ten days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees who choose not to join unions no longer have to pay reduced fees to cover collective bargaining. And already, a crusade to persuade teachers to drop union membership has hit Illinois.

Ten days ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that public sector employees who choose not to join unions no longer have to pay reduced fees to cover collective bargaining. And already, a crusade to persuade teachers to drop union membership has hit Illinois.

When school districts outside of Chicago negotiate contracts, they do so with the assurance that the state will pick up the tab on pensions. To control growing pension costs, lawmakers capped salary bumps at 6 percent in 2005. This year, the cap tightened to 3 percent.

Illinois' teachers unions have collected more than 15,000 signatures on petitions urging state lawmakers to reverse that measure.  

Long before he ran for governor, Bruce Rauner was a champion for school choice. That’s the shorthand way of saying he used his considerable clout and cash to support charter schools, most of which don’t welcome teacher unions.

Illinois has struggled for decades to persuade high school graduates to stay in-state for college. The recent two-year budget impasse only made things worse. Now, a group of lawmakers has a plan to reverse the trend, starting with the state’s Monetary Award Program.

In the Farrington school district, near Mount Vernon, a new teacher makes less than $29,000 — even with a master’s degree. Farrington is one of the lowest-paying districts, but state officials say some 7,000 teachers statewide makes less than $40,000.

A new state law just approved by the legislature would change that.

State Senator Chapin Rose had what he thought was a no-brainer bill. All he wanted to do was help public universities connect with promising high school juniors by sharing basic data like standardized test scores. But just hours before presenting his bill in committee, he ran into FERPA — the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

It’s a federal law; there’s no easy way around it.

Legislation that could have severed the Southern Illinois University board of trustees into two separate organizations may be put on ice to allow time for an independent study.

Think of it like a couple considering divorce, and the judge sends them to mediation instead.

A group of school superintendents is suing Gov. Bruce Rauner and the State of Illinois seeking more than $7 billion for schools.

Documents published today by the Southern Illinoisan newspaper have sparked calls for the immediate resignation of Randy Dunn, president of Southern Illinois University. For weeks, lawmakers have been mulling a package of bills — one of which would boost funding to the Edwardsville campus, another would split the two campuses entirely, and the third would reconstitute SIU's Board of Trustees. The documents published today suggest that Dunn may have withheld information from the Carbondale campus chancellor in an effort to funnel more than $5 million in state funds to the Edwardsville campus and split SIU into two separate schools.

His name was Devon McClyde, and he was 16 years old when he was caught in the crossfire of an argument while playing basketball one evening in a local park in Danville on June 8, 2016.

He died three days later – the victim of another gun crime in Central Illinois.

 


Gov. Bruce Rauner has a track record of handing the toughest topics to small bipartisan panels of legislators. These “working groups” have been tasked with solving budget and pension problems, plus criminal justice reform. And weeks after the Florida mass shooting, Rauner formed a working group on public safety. Like the others, that group meets in private.

 

Speaking after today's meeting, State Rep. Barbara Wheeler (R-Crystal Lake) said it's probably meant to prevent politicians from grandstanding.

SIUC / SIUE / Facebook

Legislation that would separate SIU Carbondale and SIU Edwardsville passed out of a House Committee Thursday. Representative Jay Hoffman's bill would create a separate board for SIUC and SIUE, and it would have the School of Medicine be a part of Edwardsville's structure. Hoffman says his proposal would boost both campuses.

 

As he got ready to pitch his legislation to the House education committee, State Rep. John Connor held up a snapshot.

 

"This is a picture of myself and my younger brother, Matt Connor, at his graduation from the University of Notre Dame in 1994,” the lawmaker said. “What you can't see in this picture is the mole that's on his back. It was a very unusual mole. He was dating a girl who was in the nursing program. She told him to get it looked at. And he waited.”

The state Illinois will finally begin sending local school districts more than $350 million dollars to equalize school funding. The funds, set to go out next week, come as the result of the reform battle waged in the General Assembly over the past several years.

The trend toward school choice has educators across the country looking at Chicago’s Noble Charter Schools — an award-winning network of mostly high schools that specializes in helping inner-city kids achieve the kind of SAT scores that propel them into four-year universities. But despite its prestigious reputation, Noble has a peculiarly high teacher turnover rate.

For more than 30 years, kids with a certain streak of genius have found a home at Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy in suburban Chicago. It’s the rarest of gems in the educational landscape: a public, affordable, boarding school. One of just a handful of such schools nationwide, Wired magazine dubbed it “Hogwarts for Hackers.” But now, after the state’s two-year budget impasse, lawmakers are pondering a proposal that would welcome wizards from outside of Illinois — for a price.

An obscure, technical bit of legislation could make a big difference for some of the state’s youngest students. It’s meant to tie up all the loose ends on the massive school funding reform lawmakers approved last August. This cleanup bill contains more than a dozen changes, plus language that would fund bilingual education for students in pre-kindergarten classes. All it needs is the signature of Governor Bruce Rauner.

 

Without that?

State Rep. Sue Scherer / Facebook

A recent report has shown Illinois is in the midst of a severe teacher shortage, particularly in the central part of the state. A panel of lawmakers took testimony on that topic today.

Chicago Cardinal Blaise Cupich traveled to Springfield today to voice his support of stricter gun laws. But he also addressed Illinois' new school funding reform, and its tax credit program for private school scholarship donors.  

The Illinois State Board of Education is supposed to spend more government dollars on the neediest schools, according to a new funding plan. Today, lawmakers pushed back against the agency’s proposed price tag.

 

The new plan is called "evidence-based funding," because it measures what each district needs against local resources. Using that math, state superintendent Tony Smith presented a budget request for $15 billion — about double what schools got last year.

A panel of state senators today heard budget requests from agencies representing colleges and universities, and lawmakers took the opportunity to ask why neighboring states are able to lure so many Illinois students away.

 

The answer is pretty simple: Other Big 10 schools offer financial considerations that Illinois' flagship campus can't match.

One of the biggest changes Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed in today's budget address is making local school districts bear the costs of teacher pensions.

Governor Bruce Rauner's budget address at noon Wednesday is expected to be a plan that would leave the state with a small surplus. But that doesn't mean he's going to get a good grade from math teachers. Or any other teachers.

 

Rauner listed school funding reform as his top accomplishment of 2017. But today, he will ask the General Assembly to shoot a sizeable hole in that plan.  

 

Illinois State Board of Education / Facebook

For the past year or two, public school funding has been a topic of news stories, yard signs and even campaign ads culminating in Illinois lawmakers approving a historic overhaul of the way the state pays for education. But as it turns out, getting the reform signed into law was only half the battle. The nitty-gritty of actually implementing the changes has sparked a series of legislative skirmishes pitting the State Board of Education against some unexpected opponents. Our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes explains.

 

 

The controversial standardized tests known as PARCC could be on their way out after this spring. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to request sealed proposals for a new statewide exam next week. That’s in response to concerns from teachers and parents about the hours-long reading and math assessment that most third- and eighth-graders failed.

After years of cuts and chronic underfunding, state higher education officials voted yesterday to make a modest request for next year’s budget.

Meeting in Springfield, the Illinois Board of Higher Education had a lengthy debate: Do we ask for what we really need? Or do we ask for what we think we can get?

Less than an hour before Gov. Bruce Rauner was scheduled to deliver his State of the State address, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to override his veto of a small, technical school funding bill necessary to implement the massive school funding reform that Rauner has listed as his main accomplishment.

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