Education Desk

Credit Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

See the latest reports from NPR Illinois Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes. 

The NPR Illinois Education Desk is a community funded initiative to report on stories that impact you.  Stories on the state of education from K-12 to higher education written by Illinois and national journalists.

Funders include:

  • Anonymous Individual Donors
  • Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln
  • Hope Institute for Children and Families
  • Horace Mann Company
  • HSHS St. John's Hospital
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

The Trump administration is expected to address Obama-era policies cracking down on campus sexual assault. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has signaled she wants to make significant changes to how schools handle allegations, to ensure the process is fair to accused students.

The Department of Education will change its approach to campus sexual misconduct and begin a public notice and comment process to issue new regulations, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced today. In a speech at George Mason University's Antonin Scalia Law School, DeVos decried "a system run amok," "kangaroo courts" and repeatedly emphasized the plight of the accused. "One rape is one too many ... one person denied due process is one too many," she said. Outside, protesters yelled, "Stop protecting rapists!"

A bit of background.

During the last few weeks of August, Torri Hayslett's room at McKinley Technology High School feels more like an accountant's office than a college adviser's.

"Thirty-one thousand dollars minus $4,000, minus $2,500," she says, saying the numbers out loud before punching them into the calculator. She's sitting with one of her students, who recently graduated from McKinley. They're looking over her first college bill.

"Does the $9,000 include the $3,000?" Hayslett asks. "I think that is including," the student responds. "Again, I do not know a lot of logistics right now."

State Sen. Andy Manar shepherds historic school funding reform through the legislature after years of failed attempts.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


This is what it takes for Wendy Troxel to get her 14-year-old son out of bed so that he can get to school by 7:30.

WENDY TROXEL: I throw on the lights, speak in a very loud voice. I often shake him. I tickle his feet. It's brutal.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Erik Erazo says the end of the DACA program threatens all the things that the young people he works with have achieved.

"You see in their eyes the fear, that's the heartbreaker," says Erazo, a high school counselor in Olathe, Kan.

Copyright 2017 Houston Public Media News 88.7. To see more, visit Houston Public Media News 88.7.



Here's rule #3 in a new dress code for Glenwood High School in Chatham: "If wearing leggings or yoga pants, tops must cover the entire buttocks."

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

The Trump administration Tuesday formally announced it will end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program — also called DACA — putting an expiration date on the legal protections granted to roughly 800,000 people known as "DREAMers," who entered the country illegally as children.

President Trump issued a statement, saying, "I do not favor punishing children, most of whom are now adults, for the actions of their parents. But we must also recognize that we are nation of opportunity because we are a nation of laws."

District leaders in the Oklahoma City Public Schools will soon head out into the community to ask this question: Should the four elementary schools they believe are the namesake of Confederate generals be renamed?

The origin of that question goes back several weeks. Right after the violence broke out in Charlottesville, Va., Charles Henry, a school board member in Oklahoma City, voiced his concern about the name of Jackson Elementary, which he says had been bothering him for a while.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Teachers Organize To Help In Texas

Sep 3, 2017

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


While the nation has been watching Harvey's devastation in Texas, news continues elsewhere, including education news. We'll catch you up.

Harvey closes schools for a million students

School districts across Texas — with over a million schoolchildren — are dealing with the aftermath of Harvey.

This week was supposed to be the start of a brand-new school year for the 200,000, or so, students in the Houston Independent School District.

Instead, kids, teachers and staff are dealing with the fallout from Harvey's record-breaking rainfall and devastating floods.

Richard Carranza, Houston schools superintendent, is trying to figure out when school can start — and where, in cases where high waters flooded out schools and homes. Even as he recognizes this school year will be very different, he says the focus will be on teaching kids, wherever Harvey has scattered them.


Gov. Bruce Rauner took sort of a victory lap visiting a Catholic school, a traditional public school and a charter school to celebrate the Illinois General Assembly's approval of a historic school funding overhaul.

Kimberly Lightford, Will Davis, and Andy Manar
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois legislature on Tuesday approved a major, bipartisan overhaul of the way Illinois funds public education.

Illinois' current school funding formula dates back to 1997. And efforts to replace it with something more logical, more fair, and more equitable? To hear lawmakers tell it, those also date back almost 20 years.

NPR Illinois

The Illinois Senate has approved a new system for funding schools that will reduce large disparities between wealthy and poor districts.

Brandon McElveen's Ford F150 pickup is lifted up about six inches. He says that's just the style in the South, but this week, "it's come in handy" for driving through up to four feet of water.

McElveen's a counselor at the KIPP Explore Academy elementary school in Houston. Within hours of the flooding this week, he began getting calls and messages asking for help. One was from a family with two girls on the middle school softball team he also coaches.

With his truck and a borrowed kayak, he estimates he's helped more than 20 people to safety.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


Vote tabluation board in Illinois House.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

It took three different votes, but Illinois may finally be getting the new school funding formula lawmakers have been working on for the past few years. The state House of Representatives yesterday approved a new evidence-based school funding plan. It's a compromise, containing most of the plan Democrats proposed months ago, plus a new $75 million program that would provide tax credits to organizations offering private school scholarships.

Teachers unions criticized that provision.

But Representative Bob Pritchard, a Republican from Hinckley, says this school funding reform measure is one of the best things the Illinois House has done.

Early-childhood and elementary school programs reflect a diverse set of commitments about what children ought to learn, and about how they ought to do so.

Some focus on academic preparation and advancement, with extra attention to reading and mathematics. Some emphasize social-emotional development and community values. Others tout their language classes, or their music program, or the opportunities for children to engage in extended projects of their choosing. Some praise structure and discipline; some prize autonomy and play.

The start of the school year can be rough on some kids. It's a big shift from summer's freedom and lack of structure to the measured routines of school. And sometimes that can build up into tears, losing sleep, outbursts and other classic signs of anxiety.

"Going back to school is a transition for everyone," says Lynn Bufka, a practicing psychologist who also works at the American Psychological Association. "No matter the age of the child, or if they've been to school before."

VictorBjorkund / Flickr

Illinois' legislative leaders met at the statehouse Sunday to draft what they hope will be the final touches on a school funding compromise. 

The Call-In: Bullying

Aug 27, 2017

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


And this is the Call-In. Today, we're talking about bullying. Kids are heading back to school. And the National Center for Educational Statistics says 1 out of every 5 kids reports being bullied. So we asked you to call in and share your experiences with this difficult issue.

Barbershop: Politics In The Classroom

Aug 26, 2017

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit


NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Senate Bill 1 was supposed to help Illinois cure its chronic case of inequitable school funding. The Democrat-sponsored measure has become a partisan controversy that's now preventing state money from being sent to schools.

Legislative leaders yesterday announced they'd achieved compromise, but reports that the deal includes a $75 million tax-credit program for private school tuition scholarships is drawing criticism.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit