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 Hosptial
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

Ashley Hustava is candid. A decision about where she attends college may come down to cost.

The senior at Springfield’s Southeast High School has been accepted at four schools. Now she’s waiting to find out what financial aid and scholarships are available. Her family started putting money away for her education when she was little, but it’s still not enough.

Aaron Chambers
WUIS/Illinois Issues

The way U.S. Sen. Peter Fitzgerald tells the story of his legacy, he’s leaving at the top of his game.

He installed three independent U.S. attorneys in Illinois. He blocked efforts on Capitol Hill to cement into federal law a deal to expand O’Hare International Airport. And — an accomplishment that seems to give him the most satisfaction — he bucked the state’s GOP establishment.

Construction paper isn’t in much demand in Carlinville’s schools because elementary students can no longer take art. The teaching staff was cut by more than 17 percent, forcing class sizes to climb at all elementary grades. The average fourth-grade class size is now 29.

The district has had to take several such steps over the past three years to reduce its budget deficit. 

Oak Park and River Forest High School District 200 in suburban Chicago spends about $13,600 a year on each student — nearly twice the average per-pupil spending in Illinois. And under a proposal in Gov. George Ryan’s fiscal year 2003 budget — which would take money from 22 categorical grants and redistribute it — that one-school district would get $1.3 million more each year.

Something historic happened in Decatur last February. For the first time in more than 40 years, voters approved a tax increase for the city's cash-strapped public schools. But even that imminent infusion of new property tax dollars wasn't enough to stop the flow of red ink. The district is pressing ahead with $7.2 million in budget cuts, including the fall layoffs of 140 teachers.

American Federation of Teachers

Kara Schlink says she can't remember wanting to do anything but teach. So it was natural to enter the teacher education program at Illinois State University in Normal, which is just a few miles north of Hudson, the small west central Illinois town where she was raised.

Last January, right after graduation, Schlink became a teacher - in San Antonio, Texas, where she says she was lured by better weather and a beginning teacher salary that topped Illinois' average by more than $3,000.

It was a teacher's dream. Ray Ulrich arrived last fall for his first day of class at Farragut school in Joliet to a classroom full of motivated students. But this wasn't a batch of fifth-graders. Instead, Ulrich, a teacher training specialist from the Teachers Academy for Mathematics and Science in Chicago, faced Farragut's own math and science teachers. His job was to help them improve the way they teach math to their elementary school pupils.

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