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

Teachers have one of the lowest-paid professional jobs in the U.S. You need a bachelor's degree, which can be costly — an equation that often means a lot of student loans. We've reported on the factors that make this particular job even more vulnerable to a ton of debt, including chronically low teacher pay, the increasing pressure to get a master's degree and the many ways to repay loans or apply for loan forgiveness.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Here's welcome news to anyone planning to attend college soon or their parents - tuition is growing at the slowest pace in decades. Josh Mitchell of The Wall Street Journal has been reporting on this trend and he joins me now. Welcome to the program.

On-campus disciplinary processes for assaults that are reported have drawn criticism from both survivors and those accused of assault. According to federal statistics, only about one in six survivors of sexual assault on college campuses report the incident to school authorities.

Emporia, Kansas is home to rolling prairies, wheat fields, and the world's biggest frisbee golf tournament.

But the reason we went there: the National Teacher Hall of Fame, which gives the place it's most revered title, Teacher Town USA.

In 1989 the members of the Emporia local school board and Emporia State University asked, 'Why doesn't anyone honor teachers?'

To fill the void, they created the museum and hall of fame, where the top five teachers in the nation are honored every year. To be eligible, you must have taught for 20 years or more.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling lawmakers back from their summer vacation to deal with a new school funding plan in special session starting Wednesday. The issue has turned into a showdown between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature, with the fate of k-12 school children in the balance.

The Controversy Over Comprehensive Sex Ed

Jul 24, 2017

Yes, sex education class is still just as embarrassing and awkward as it ever was. But what kids are learning in school about the birds and bees may be changing.

President Trump’s administration is poised to defund some teen pregnancy prevention research programs which had been supported by the Department of Health and Human Services. And the new assistant secretary for HHS is an advocate for teaching an abstinence-only curriculum in schools.

It's afternoon, and in a spacious courtyard in Accra, Ghana, children sit at tables and talk to adult mentors. Pat Wilkins, a youthful 52-year-old, firmly asks what they've been learning in school. She peers seriously at them through her glasses. And then "Aunty Pat" — as the kids call her — cracks a smile.

It's this blend of discipline and nurturing that's the foundation of BASICS, a nonprofit organization Wilkins started in 2001 that aims to change lives by guiding low-income children through school and preparing them for skilled jobs.

"It beeped in the envelope. That's how we knew."

Leslie Conrad is the director of Clemson Outdoor Lab in Pendleton, S.C., which runs several different camps during the summer. Clemson bans cellphones and other electronic devices for campers.

That makes sense. We traditionally think of summer camp as a place to swim in the lake and weave friendship bracelets, not text and play video games.

This week, the FIRST Global Challenge, a highly anticipated robotics competition for 15- to 18-year-olds from 157 countries, ended the way it began — with controversy.

On Wednesday, members of the team from the violence-torn east African country of Burundi went missing. And well before the competition even began, the teams from Gambia and Afghanistan made headlines after the U.S. State Department denied the members visas. Eventually, they were allowed to compete.

The drama marred an otherwise upbeat event focused on kids and robots.

Former Child Bride Is Pedaling Her Way To A Brighter Future

Jul 22, 2017

At 14, Jenipher Sanni married a man who already had a wife and kids. He yelled at her a lot. She dropped out of school.

Now 20, she's left her husband and is a newly minted high school graduate. And she's helping girls in her community stay in school.

In this week's edition of our education news roundup, we take you from school vouchers to AP exams to community college.

Betsy DeVos speaks to American Legislative Exchange Council

Protests greeted the education secretary in Denver this week at her speech to the American Legislative Exchange Council. Her family has close ties to the organization, which brings together state legislators, free-market conservatives and corporate sponsors to write model bills that get adopted all over the country.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, flanked by Auburn superintendent Darren Root, State Representatives Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) and Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (R-Leland Grove), demands SB1 by Monday at noon.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Monday at high noon — That's the deadline Gov. Bruce Rauner has given Democrats to send the school funding bill to his desk. The new state budget requires this revamped funding formula, but Rauner plans to veto certain parts of the plan.

He promises every school district -- except Chicago -- lots more money once he gets to veto portions of the Democrats' bill.

graduation ceremony
WOSU Public Media / flickr

Adults in Illinois who failed to graduate from high school still can earn a General Educational Development certificate, also known as a G-E-D.  But legislation approved by the General Assembly would provide what some consider to be a better alternative. 

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

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Meghan McCain writes that, of her family members, the one most confident and calm right now is her father.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Her father is Senator John McCain. And his office says he was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos spoke to the annual meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, on Thursday in Denver, but protests from left-wing activists and teacher groups started Wednesday.

Hundreds marched from the state Capitol in Denver to the Hyatt Regency, the site of the speech, with signs reading: "Dump Betsy DeVos," "Take Devouchers Elsewhere" and "Stop School Privatization!"

Mason jar with coins in bottom.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The new state budget will fund Illinois colleges and universities at the level of funding they received in 2015 — minus 10 percent. But there’s one area of higher education that got a boost.  

Five billion dollars in outstanding private student loan debt may be forgiven because of poor record keeping by financial companies, an investigation by The New York Times found this week.

Mitch Daniels went from running the state of Indiana, as its two-term Republican governor, to running its top flight public university, Purdue University, based in West Lafayette.

Every year, many students who have overcome daunting obstacles in high school receive good news — they've been accepted to college.

These kids represent a success story: through hard work and determination, they've made into college, and perhaps even on to a better life.

Except it doesn't always work out that way.

Rauner at podium
@GovRauner / Facebook

Lawmakers approved a state budget more than a week ago. But the education portion remains uncertain. For the money to flow, Democrats added a provision that requires enactment of a new school funding plan. Democrats have passed such a plan through both chambers, but Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, says he’ll veto parts of it.

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

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Many things are not working well,” said Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in a recent Q&A about sexual assault on college campuses.

Those of my generation have seen enormous advances in speech recognition systems.

In the early days, the user had to train herself to the system, exaggerating phonemes, speaking in slow staccato bursts. These days, it's the system that trains itself to the user. The results aren't perfect, but they're pretty darn good.

When Black Hair Violates The Dress Code

Jul 17, 2017

Raising teenage girls can be a tough job. Raising black teenage girls as white parents can be even tougher. Aaron and Colleen Cook knew that when they adopted their twin daughters, Mya and Deanna.

As spring came around this year, the girls, who just turned 16, told their parents they wanted to get braided hair extensions. Their parents happily obliged, wanting Mya and Deanna to feel closer to their black heritage.

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

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

Teenagers often have to wait years to do the things they want to do — drive, drink, vote. But for Mara Clawson, it was something different.

As a teen, Clawson loved making art — specifically drawing with pastels.

"I am overloaded and struggling. It's terrifying."

"I feel like I'll be making the last payment from my grave."

"It is an albatross around my neck. Years of paying and I feel like I'm getting nowhere."

"Help!"

Those were some of the comments we received from more than 2,000 respondents to NPR Ed's first Teacher Student Debt survey.

Hello! No shortage of education headlines even in the height of summer for our weekly roundup.

DeVos meets with "men's rights" groups on campus sexual assault

Student carrying school flag in gym
Seaton Township High School District 40

The shakeup in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office seems to signal a tougher stance on school funding. The state spending plan passed by the General Assembly requires adoption of a new funding formula, but Rauner has promised to veto the only school formula plan that got legislative approval. This standoff might make the lawsuit filed by 21 school superintendents more relevant.

 

The lawsuit, filed in April, demands that Illinois honor its constitutional obligation to provide a high quality education for all students.

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