Dusty Rhodes

Reporter - Education Desk

After a long career in newspapers (Dallas Observer, The Dallas Morning News, Anchorage Daily News, Illinois Times), Dusty returned to school to get a master's degree in multimedia journalism. She began work as Education Desk reporter at NPR Illinois in September 2014. But it's not her years of experience or her education that help her understand this beat. It's her sons -- "one homemade, one adopted" -- who have vastly different types of intelligence and vastly different learning styles. Between the two of them, she's experienced public, charter, Montessori and magnet schools, gifted, IEP and 504 accommodations, and uncountable band concerts, science fairs, basketball games, and parent/teacher conferences. It's the parent/teacher conferences that always make her cry.

Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey/WUIS

One of the few areas not threatened with Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget ax today was public school education. But at a conference of school leaders, reaction was lukewarm. 

This is a story you have to hear. Click below to listen:

Dusty Rhodes

Governor Bruce Rauner was scheduled to deliver the keynote address at a meeting of public school leaders today in Springfield. Instead, he sent his new education czar.  

Beth Purvis, a member of Gov. Rauner's transition team, had been in office just about two hours. In fact, her exact title hadn't been determined. But for the past 10 years, Purvis has been the CEO of the Chicago International Charter School. 

 

In a previous legislative session, Sen. Jason Barickman (at the podium) proposed an evidence-based school funding plan with the support of Sen. Andy Manar (right). This session, the two senators have proposed significantly different versions of that plan.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois file photo

Another effort for overhauling school funding is taking shape in the Illinois legislature. 

Jason Barickman, a Republican senator from Bloomington, says he’s going to introduce three pieces of legislation to tackle the state’s infamous education funding inequity. He describes the first piece as an “evidence-based model," which he believes will be supported by Governor Bruce Rauner.

The Blen / Creative Commons, flickr

    

The recent surge in cases of measles across the United States has focused attention on the choices families make about immunizing their children. Like most parents, the young married couple I’m about to introduce you to has tried to do everything possible to ensure their baby is healthy. 

"We made our own food," the dad says.

Dusty Rhodes

 

Governor Bruce Rauner visited a handful of schools in central Illinois today to talk to students. 

At Lanphier High School in Springfield, the governor spent about 15 minutes talking to a library full of kids. His message: Education is the key to success, and he’s going to improve education in Illinois. 

“It’s the number one priority,” Rauner said. “To me, for my wife and me, there’s nothing more important than education.  And we’re dedicated to your education, to make sure it’s as best as it can possibly be.” 

Police officers have used pepper spray at least 110 times in Alabama public schools, often for infractions of school rules (disrespectful comments, minor skirmishes) rather than actual criminal behavior. The decision on a class-action lawsuit that would allow police to continue this practice is expected today.

Read the story here:

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/02/birmingham-school-police-trial-splc

Dusty Rhodes

 

Five babies at a day care center in Palatine, a northwest suburb of Chicago, have the measles. These infants were vulnerable because they are all under the age of 1, and therefore too young to get the measles vaccine. It’s the latest in a rash of cases that have shown up in about a dozen states -- focusing new attention on families who choose not to vaccinate their children.

Dusty Rhodes

 

Senator Andy Manar has reintroduced a measure proposing to change the way schools are funded in Illinois. This time, it has new formulas, and a request for more money. 

Like the version debated last session, which passed the Senate but stalled in the House, this formula would give more money to districts with low property values and high rates of poverty. At a press conference on Tuesday, Representative Sue Scherer, a Democrat  from Decatur and a former teacher, talked about the inequity from personal experience.

 

 

The Springfield school board took a close look at its budget Monday night, and discovered that it’s either $3 million in the black, or $3 million in the red.

 

ilga.gov

 

 

Parents and educators alike have been questioning the increasing number of standardized tests now required in public schools. A measure filed by Illinois State Representative Will Guzzardi would give moms and dads a way to allow their kid to skip these exams. 

 

“Seven other states have statutes allowing parents to opt out of their standardized testing,” Guzzardi says.  “Those states haven’t seen any sort of diminishment of their federal funding or anything like that, as some of the doom-and-gloom folks suggest might happen.”

Steven Salaita, the professor whose social media posts cost him a job at the University of Illinois, has filed suit in federal court against the university Board of Trustees, Chancellor Phyllis Wise, other university officials and "unknown donors."

University spokesman Tom Hardy released a statement saying the university will "vigorously defend against meritless claims" and citing several of the tweets that persuaded the Board of Trustees to reject, by a vote of 8-1, the appointment that he had been offered and accepted.

That's the take from Mike Klonsky.

Read more HERE

In mid-January, Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennet decided to take a stand against the Common Core test known as the PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), announcing that it would be administered in only 10 percent of CPS schools and asking for a one-year delay in fully implementing the test.

 

Senator Andy Manar, pushing for an overhaul of school funding, shared a draft of his revised bill with the Associate Press. Click HERE to read the story.

Chicago Public Schools CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett has declared that only 66 of her 6,000 schools will participate in PARCC testing this spring. That's because the kids don't have enough access to technology to do their best on an online test. HERE's the Chicago Tribune story. She does plan to fully-implement the test next year, and continue with the Common Core curriculum.

Here's ISBE's press release with the highlights of the budget request that it will send to the General Assembly
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ISBE recommends nearly $730 million increase in education funding

Board members acknowledge fiscal challenges facing state, but urge lawmakers to fully fund General State Aid commitment, increase funding for early childhood programs

Illinois State Board of Education

When the Illinois State Board of Education met yesterday in Springfield, there was a new chairman running the agenda.

 

 

Dusty Rhodes

When it comes to funding public schools, Illinois ranks near the bottom for equity. Legislation designed to change that stalled last session. Lawmakers are revising it to try again.

To understand the differences in school funding across Illinois, consider this partial list of art classes available at New Trier Township High School, in the Chicago suburb of Winnetka.

There’s ceramics, drawing and painting, glass art, photography, sculpture, video art, and even animation.

Click HERE to see the complete results for District 186.

And check back for data specific to each school.

The University of Illinois Board of Trustees announced today that its previous decision not to hire Steven Salaita was final and will not be reconsidered. 

Last summer, Salaita had been offered, and accepted, a tenured position at the U. of I., but the Board of Trustees refused to approve his hiring after learning that he had posted numerous tweets criticizing Israel during the conflict with Gaza. Some of these tweets used profanity, and U. of I. Chancellor Phyllis Wise deemed some of them "hate speech."

Democratic state Sen. Heather Steans of Chicago
WUIS/Illinois Issues

Just before leaving office yesterday, now-former Governor Pat Quinn signed a slew of bills. One of those bills spells out when the state can take over a school district. 

Before this bill became law, the Illinois State Board of Education was theoretically required to intervene when any school district spent at least three years on the academic watch list. That’s about a hundred districts, but the board has neither the resources nor the desire to take such drastic action in so many schools.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has more Chinese students than any other university in the nation. The journal Inside Higher Ed takes an in-depth look at what life is like for these students, and how they're changing UIUC. The comments that follow are also interesting reading.

I worked on the UIUC campus for three years, and this article taught me things I did not know.

 

For the first time in two decades, the University of Illinois plans to hold basic tuition rates steady for the upcoming school term. But that proposal, adopted by the U. of I. budget committee on January 5, comes with a caveat.

 

Dusty Rhodes headshot
mattpenning.com 2014 / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Editor's note:
January marks a new phase in our journalism.  Due to the merger between WUIS and Illinois Issues, we now have a number of journalists that enable reporting on a beat model.  A beat allows a reporter to learn events and people more thoroughly than general assignment reporting.  Each reporter is focusing on key issues in the state.  We're calling it the "Illinois Issues Initiative." 

EDUCATION DESK
Dusty Rhodes

news.illinois.edu

Here is Chancellor Phyllis Wise's full statement in response to the report of the Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure's analysis of the university's handling of Steven Salaita's dismissal:

    

  Bruce Rosenstock, president of the Campus Faculty Association at the University of Illinois, said the report released today by the school’s Committee on Academic Freedom and Tenure is a “bombshell and a game changer” that will force university officials to revisit their decision to not hire controversial professor Steven Salaita.

Jim Meadows, WILL

A committee investigating the University of Illinois’ handling of Steven Salaita -- a professor whose job offer with the university was withdrawn due to his social media posts -- issued a report today criticizing school officials.  Phyllis Wise, chancellor of the University of Illinois’ main campus, violated procedures when she failed to consult key academic officers before telling a controversial professor that he would not get the job he had been promised.

Dusty Rhodes

 

Watching her daughter play volleyball, April Standage sounds like any good sports mom. She keeps an eye on the refs, she encourages the players, and she keeps a mental tally of the score. And like any good sports mom, she would much rather watch the game than talk to a reporter.

It turns out that Standage has loved sports all her life. Starting in middle school, she played volleyball and basketball, threw the shotput and discus, and ran the 4-by-200 in track. Her 15-year-old daughter, however, is just now discovering sports. 

Tom Woodward / Flickr Creative Commons

 

Illinois schools are preparing to implement a new standardized test based on the Common Core standards. Some school districts have pleaded with state officials to delay the implementation of the new test, but Springfield school officials say they're ready.

Educators refer to this new test as the PARCC test. That’s the acronym for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. It’s a standardized test, designed by the Pearson company, that will be given to most Illinois students beginning in March.

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