Education Desk

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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

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For the past few weeks, my house has been command central for handling classroom supplies that people across the country have donated to my teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Many of their classrooms were shot up when a gunman opened fire on Feb. 14, killing 17 of my classmates and school staff.

Updated at 11:09 a.m. ET

Student loan debt collectors have been accused of deceiving and abusing student borrowers and have been sued by attorneys general in a handful of states. Now, they may be getting some relief.

The debt collectors, that is. Not their customers.

In an internal document obtained by NPR, the U.S. Department of Education, under Secretary Betsy DeVos, argues that the nation's loan servicers should be protected from state rules that may be far tougher than federal law.

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Since the mass killing at a Parkland, Fla., high school earlier this month, many teachers have called on their state pension funds to sell their stakes in gun-makers. Private investment firms including BlackRock and Blackstone are reviewing their firearms investments in response to clients' demands.

But even those sympathetic to their position say divesting from those companies doesn't lead to industry change.

Yuridia Nava, a counselor at Riverside Polytechnic High School in Riverside, Calif., has been getting to work at 7 a.m. lately. It's class registration time, so she wants to be available before school for parents and students to come in with questions as they plan for the next year of courses, SAT tests, and college preparation.

West Virginia educators and school workers yet again plan to head to the Capitol in Charleston to rally lawmakers for better pay and health care benefits. Monday could be a pivotal day in the ongoing work stoppage for teachers and school service personnel across the state. The continued approach of county school officials remains in question, the state board of education could take legal action and legislative deadlines loom.

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Welcome to our weekly roundup of education news. This week, students and teachers made major headlines.

Survivors protest gun laws; Lawmakers offer solutions

President Trump repeated his suggestion to arm teachers on school campuses as a solution to protecting students from gun violence.

"We have to have offensive capability to take these people out rapidly before they can do this kind of damage," Trump told reporters in a joint news conference with the Australian Prime Minister on Friday. The president suggested staffing schools with veterans who would carry concealed weapons.

A Vermont High School Has Just 3 Students

Feb 24, 2018

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Our series, "Take A Number," is exploring problems around the world — and the people who are trying to solve them — through the lens of a single number.

Twenty-one days. If you get sued for debt in Utah, that's how long you have to respond to a complaint in the mail.

The complaints are fine-print legalese and they're confusing. But despite that, 98.5 percent of the state's debtors try to navigate the process themselves, without any legal help. And they often end up paying more than they should.

Copyright 2018 90.3 WCPN ideastream. To see more, visit 90.3 WCPN ideastream.

What would our schools really be like if teachers carried guns in their classrooms? If, as President Trump first suggested at this week's White House meeting with families who have suffered school shootings, 20 percent of teachers were armed?

He repeated the idea in tweets the next day, saying, "20% of teachers, a lot, would now be able to ... immediately fire back if a savage sicko came to a school with bad intentions ... Far more assets at much less cost than guards. A 'gun free' school is a magnet for bad people. ATTACKS WOULD END!"

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Florida's Republican governor is calling for a range of measures that aim to prevent shootings like the one that occurred last week in Parkland, Fla., where 17 students and staff were killed.

In a news conference Friday in Tallahassee, Rick Scott said he wants new laws and programs that fall into three categories: gun laws, school safety and mental health.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


In trying to clarify his Wednesday comments about arming teachers and other school personnel, President Trump, a day later, aligned himself even more closely with the National Rifle Association on the issue of teachers with guns and beefing up school security.

So much so, they seemed, at times, to be reading from the same script.

Here's how the day started — with NRA Executive Vice President and CEO Wayne LaPierre at the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC (emphasis ours):

West Virginia's public schools were closed Thursday, as teachers across the state walked out and protested for better pay and benefits from state lawmakers.

Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill Wednesday to give teachers a 2 percent pay raise starting in July, and an additional 1 percent pay increase in 2020 and 2021.

McConchie in office
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

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.

"Valentine's Day was a day of love, passion and friendships as Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School celebrated February 14, 2018 ..."

That's how the student journalists writing for the Eagle Eye, the newspaper at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, started their story about one of the deadliest mass shootings in modern history.

That first line flowed quickly for senior Christy Ma, but the rest of the article took days to write as she relived the events.

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit


I remember back during the 1997-98 school year when we were all stunned by five school shootings within a period of eight months in places few Americans had heard of: Pearl, Miss., West Paducah, Ky., Jonesboro, Ark., Edinboro, Penn., and Springfield, Ore.

A week after 17 people were killed at a Parkland, Fla., high school, President Trump hosted survivors, parents and teachers from that and other recent school shooting tragedies for an emotional, nearly 90-minute listening session at the White House Wednesday.

D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Antwan Wilson resigned Tuesday following revelations that his daughter was improperly transferred from one of the district's top-performing public high schools to another — which had a waitlist of more than 600 students.

The school shooting in Parkland, Fla., that took 17 lives followed one in rural western Kentucky by three weeks. The Kentucky shooter killed two high school sophomores and injured 18 other people.

In the wake of the tragedy at Marshall County High School in Benton, Kentucky's Republican governor and legislature say they won't consider any gun-control proposals. Instead, a measure allowing teachers or staff to carry guns on campus has gained traction.

Republican state Sen. Steve West admits his bill isn't going to stop all school shootings, but he hopes it'll help.

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The Columbine Generation

Feb 20, 2018

In April 1999, two students killed 12 classmates, one teacher and themselves at Columbine High School in Colorado. Nineteen years later, a gunman killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Growing up in rural Idaho, Tara Westover had no birth certificate, never saw a doctor and didn't go to school. Her parents were religious fundamentalists who stockpiled food, mistrusted the government and believed in strict gender roles for their seven children.

As a girl, Westover says, "There wasn't ever any question about what my future would look like: I would get married when I was 17 or 18, and I would be given some corner of the farm and my husband would put a house on it and we would have kids."