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

Back when Stefani McCoy was 17, she felt isolated and depressed. Her mother was raising her solo while her father battled drug addiction. One day, she decided she was done with going to school. "No one could talk me out of it," says McCoy, who soon ended up living out of her car.

Eleven years later, she's in the Peace Corps, trying to help dropouts in Namibia in a similar situation.

As McCoy says, "They're me in African form."

What a week it's been for education news. Let's begin NPR Ed's weekly roundup as the week began, on Monday ...

DeVos talks choice in Indianapolis

It was expected to be an important speech, perhaps the unveiling of President Trump's long-awaited, $20 billion plan to expand school choice nationally. But that didn't happen.

Instead, when Education Secretary Betsy DeVos took the stage in Indianapolis at the American Federation For Children's National Policy Summit, she talked philosophy.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Public schools would have to provide free feminine hygiene products in girls' bathrooms under legislation approved in the Illinois General Assembly.

On Friday, Hillary Clinton addressed the graduating class of her alma mater, Wellesley College.

She used the opportunity to wade into current politics and direct a few jokes at President Trump.

Harvard dropout Mark Zuckerberg returned to the university Thursday to give graduates a commencement address, filled with calls for building a connected world "where every single person has a sense of purpose."

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

As budget negotiations continue, one big piece of the puzzle is school funding. We check in with our Education Desk reporter to see which bills are on the table, what they would do, why some “news” outlets say districts would lose money, and whether there’s any chance a bill will pass.

 

The sudden resignation of an Obama appointee who oversaw student aid at the U.S. Department of Education has brought forth competing explanations.

If you fly into Haines, Alaska, you'll be on a prop plane so small that your pilot will call the roll.

"Melissa." Yup. "Mary." Yes. "Joseph?" Right here.

Just 2,500 people live in Haines — a small town in southeast Alaska surrounded by water. The scenery is incredible, with snowy mountains and lush green forest beyond. The city center is just a few blocks, with several bars, a few restaurants and a beautiful, award-winning library.

At 43 years old, Katina Johnson is planning her high school graduation party. It's been about thirty years since she dropped out of middle school when she found out she was pregnant.

Even before then, though, she'd never had a stable education. Her mother was addicted to drugs and moved her around a lot before she died when Johnson was just 12 years old. "That was the last time I even seen the inside of a school," she says.

Davis chatting with advocates
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Lawmakers of both parties, and even Gov. Bruce Rauner, agree that Illinois doesn't fund schools in an equitable manner. But with the legislative session scheduled to end on May 31, they still can't agree on exactly how to fix it.

 

One plan earned bipartisan approval in a House committee today, clearing a procedural hurdle that positions it for possible speedy passage.

 

There were few fireworks Wednesday as Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testified before a House appropriations subcommittee on the Trump administration's 2018 budget proposal. DeVos deflected much of the skepticism she received and continued to push the administration's support of school choice.

African-American students say they matriculated to Duke Divinity School expecting to enhance their calling with top-notch theological training at a prestigious program. But instead, they say, they entered a racial nightmare seemingly from another era, with students being called the N-word and other slurs in class, consistently receiving lower grades than their white colleagues.

More states than ever are providing publicly funded preschool. That's according to a new report from the researchers at the National Institute for Early Education Research, or NIEER, who have been tracking state preschool policies and programs since 2002.

Today, more Americans graduate high school and go on to college than ever before. But as the country becomes more diverse — the Census Bureau expects that by 2020 more than half of the nation's children will be part of a minority race or ethnic group — are colleges and universities ready to serve them?

Davis and Pritchard
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

It can be tough to find a bipartisan effort on any substantive issue at the capitol. But State Representatives Will Davis (a Democrat) and Bob Pritchard (a Republican) are still co-sponsoring House Bill 2808, designed to make school funding more equitable. These two lawmakers were both members of Governor Bruce Rauner's School Funding Reform Commission. That was a bipartisan, bicameral group that spent six months studying Illinois school funding issues and creating a framework for how to fix it. ​​​Last night, they sat down for an impromptu chat about their legislation, and why it keeps changing, with our education desk reporter, Dusty Rhodes.

 

 

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

What's the Consensus on Consent?

May 23, 2017

A recent paper from the Columbia Journal of Gender and Law on the nonconsensual removal of condoms — called stealthing — has pushed discussions on consent further into the national conversation. Saying yes or no to a sexual advance should be straightforward. How do we clarify the rules on sexual consent?

GUESTS

Harry Friedman has run a consultancy training entry-level retail workers in customer service and other basics for 35 years. But in all his years, he has not retrained retail workers for new skills.

"Nope; we do none of it," he says. "I don't know that anybody does any of it."

President Trump's full budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, to be released Tuesday, calls for a $9.2 billion, or 13.5 percent, spending cut to education. The cuts would be spread across K-12 and aid to higher education, according to documents released by the White House.

None of this can be finalized without Congress. And the political track record for Presidents who want to reduce education funding is not promising, even in a far less poisoned atmosphere than the one that hovers over Washington right now.

Student loans

Late Sunday and early Monday, Texas legislators advanced a version of the divisive "bathroom bill" regulating transgender students' restroom access and passed a law that would allow publicly funded adoption agencies to refuse to work with would-be parents based on religious objections.

The "bathroom bill" proposal, which would affect public schools, was introduced as an amendment to a bill about emergency procedures at schools. It passed the House on Sunday but still needs approval from the state Senate, which is expected to support it.

Dorothy, of Spring Hill, Fla., has a 15-year-old son with spina bifida and developmental delays, and her 13-year-old daughter is, she says, "mildly autistic." Neither was happy at public school.

"My son was in a lockdown classroom with gang members. It was a bad situation. I was afraid he was going to get hurt," Dorothy says. "My daughter was getting bullied because she spoke out of turn or would get upset easily. Twenty kids in a classroom was a lot for her."

A large group of students walked out of the University of Notre Dame's commencement ceremony Sunday in protest of Vice President Mike Pence's policies.

Video from the event shows people applauding followed by loud boos as the vice president began a commencement address at the school, while dozens of students began to file out from the floor of the stadium.

The walkout was planned in protest at what organizers called Pence's policies that "have marginalized our vulnerable sisters and brothers for their religion, skin color, or sexual orientation."

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has been a passionate proponent of expanding school choice, including private school vouchers and charter schools, and she has the clear backing of President Trump. But does the research justify her enthusiasm?

Experts say one single, overarching issue bedevils their efforts to study the impact of school choice programs. That is: It's hard to disentangle the performance of a school from the selection of its students.

Copyright 2017 Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations. To see more, visit Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations.

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

It's graduation season. That means commencement addresses lead off our weekly education news roundup. Last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos faced boos at Bethune-Cookman University. This week, President Trump received a warmer welcome when he addressed cadets at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

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 in question appears in the Kankakee Times, one of a dozen community news organs created by Dan Proft. Proft runs a political action committee supported by Rauner.

ilga.gov

Two school funding plans progressed in the Illinois legislature Wednesday. A plan sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar was approved in the Senate, while in the House, a very similar plan sponsored by Rep. Will Davis made it through committee. Does that mean lawmakers may have finally found a way to cure the state's infamously unfair school funding structure?

Milwaukee has the nation's longest-running publicly funded voucher program.

For 27 years it has targeted African-American kids from low-income families, children who otherwise could not afford the tuition at a private or religious school.

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