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.

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  • 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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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.

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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.

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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.

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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."

An advocacy group says Illinois schools are in need of more diverse history lessons. Equality Illinois is behind a new statehouse proposal that would require the curriculum to include lessons on people who made history and were LGBTQ+.

How Do You Teach Slavery?

Feb 19, 2018

In 2013, Azie Mira Dungey, an actress working as a re-enactor at Mount Vernon, launched a web series based on the questions she got from tourists. The series, called Ask A Slave featured the host in character as Lizzie Mae, an enslaved handmaiden to George Washington, answering real questions she’d received from tourists.

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Tommy Rock has had three graduations — high school, college and graduate school. And no one from his family was there — no one to cheer for him, no one to take his picture. And when he came home to Monument Valley, few really cared.

"I didn't get no congratulations or nothing," Rock said. "It was like 'Oh you think you're better than us?' I was like, 'Wow, OK.' "

For the more than 3,000 students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Wednesday's mass shooting was terrifying and life-changing. But what of the tens of millions of other children, in schools across the country, who have since heard about what happened and now struggle with their own feelings of fear, confusion and uncertainty?

It's been a difficult week for schools in this edition of our weekly roundup.

School shooting in Parkland, Fla.

While Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School was on lockdown, with an active shooter in the building, students were on their phones.

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