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.

University of Illinois

Susan Koch, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Springfield, met with the faculty senate Friday to talk about state funding and other issues. She told the roomful of college professors that she was hesitant to tell them news that might send them out onto the job market, but, she said, a recent study by the Chronicle of Higher Education showed state appropriations for colleges all over the nation rose over 4 percent. Not counted in that average were Pennsylvania and Illinois — the two states where lawmakers have failed to agree on a budget, and appropriations have fallen by 100 percent. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois Speaker of the House Mike Madigan today announced that he will re-convene hearings on the state’s education funding formula. The state's current formula relies heavily on property taxes, creating a big disparity among schools based on their geographic location. Some districts can spend more than $32,000 per student every year, while others scrape by on a fraction of that amount. 

Courtesy of District 186

Springfield school board last night approved a request to add baseball to the athletic program at Franklin Middle School. 

Springfield currently has only one middle school team participating in America's greatest past-time -- baseball. That team represents the Lincoln Magnet School/Ball Charter collaborative. The board unanimously supported Franklin Middle School's request to field a team. It will be coached by Brett Troemper, a science teacher at Franklin and assistant baseball coach at Springfield High.

If you're the parent of a Springfield student, you probably spent the winter holidays reminding your kid to study, or supervising homework projects. That's because this year, final exams began a week after students returned from winter break. District officials didn't plan it that way just to take all the fun out of Christmas.

When you hear the word ACES, you probably think of kids who make good grades. But in the documentary Paper Tigers, ACES is an acronym for Adverse Childhood Experiences, such as the loss of a parent, that can affect how kids cope with school.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Illinois colleges and universities have gone seven months with zero state funding – that includes funding of MAP grants that help poor students pay tuition. Now, some business and labor leader have joined students calling for lawmakers to resolve the budget stalemate. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

The state budget impasse has largely spared public schools, thanks to Governor Bruce Rauner’s decision to fund them for the entire year. But some school districts are still hurting. 

press conference
Dusty Rhodes / NPR | Illinois Public Radio

Legislation filed Wednesday asks the state to provide $168 million owed to low-income college students who were promised MAP grants last fall.

Illinois Student Assistance Commission

When a police officer, firefighter or prison guard is killed or disabled in the line of duty, the state promises to provide their dependents with a college education. But the budget impasse has put that promise on hold, says Eric Zarnikow, director of the Illinois Student Assistance Commission.

Illinois State Board of Education

State funding for public schools has remained stagnant or decreased for the past five years. Districts with low property values have no way to supplement that aid, leaving Illinois with one of the most inequitable funding scenarios in the nation.

But a plan approved by the State Board of Education on Wednesday would increase state funding to all but the wealthiest districts, by shifting about $300 million from special education into the general school funding formula. 

Once you graduate from high school, you're ready for college. At least that's the theory. But the Illinois State Board of Education recently released data that shows for a significant number of students, that’s not the case. 

  There was something about the handwriting spelling out her address that caused Letitia Dewith-Anderson to lay the envelope aside when it arrived on Tuesday. When she finally opened it Wednesday night, and found a flyer featuring a swastika, “white power” slogans and an application to join the American Nazi Party. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Cinda Klickna, president of the Illinois Education Association, talks about the Every Student Succeeds Act — the new law that’s replacing No Child Left Behind. Our conversation involves liquid diets and cemeteries. Click the link below to listen.

 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

This week, President Barack Obama signed the Every Student Succeeds Act --- a rewrite of No Child Left Behind. The new law, referred to as ESSA, passed with bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress.


It replaces the wildly unpopular law that's come to be known as No Child Left Untested. Educators are so enthusiastic about this rewrite, the heads of two Illinois teachers unions flew to Washington to witness its signing.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

For the past eight years, federal lawmakers have been debating No Child Left Behind — a measure that led to a reliance on standardized testing as a way to ensure that students were getting a good education.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

As college students wrap up the fall semester, there is still a lot of uncertainty for the coming months. Those low-income student who rely on the Monetary Award Program to pay for tuition have no guarantee the money will arrive. Most colleges and universities have been fronting the money for their students, but even the University of Illinois has warned MAP recipients they may have to repay their grants if the budget impasse drags on through the spring semester.


Illinois has not funded its colleges or universities for the past five months. It's easy to overlook that fact, because professors have continued to teach, athletes have continued to compete, and students have continued to learn. But around the state, college administrators are saying they've burned through their financial reserves.

uis.edu


Illinois lawmakers are set to reconvene this week, and college presidents are hoping they will make progress toward passing a budget. But even if they do, universities are facing a proposed 30 percent cut. 

The University of Illinois at Springfield recently presented its Alumni Achievement Award to Wenguang Huang -- a Chinese-born writer, journalist and translator who earned his masters degree at UIS in public affairs reporting.

Ryan Michalesko

VICE News has published an investigation of American universities with ties to the military, police, and intelligence communities. Southern Illinois University in Carbondale ranked number 23, due to the number of alums who work in “top secret” jobs. The amount of funding SIU receives from national security and defense agencies was another factor.

wired_gr on flickr.com

The Illinois State Board of Education is inviting the public to help set standards for school safety. Below is the board's press release. Note that an email address at the end provides a way to share your comment if you can't attend a hearing.

Illinois Report Card

The Springfield school district received good news late last week when graduation rates were announced through the Illinois Report Card. All three District 186 high schools saw their graduation rate jump by at least 7 percentage points in 2015, and Superintendent Jennifer Gill is pretty happy about that.

The federal Department of Education has sent a letter to a Palatine high school inviting school officials to enter negotiations on arrangements where  a transgender female student can change clothes for PE and athletics. The DOE warned the Palatine school that the current arrangement violates Title IX. 

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Schools that serve a large number of low-income children qualify for federal grants, called Title 1. Many schools use that money to provide extra reading and math teachers, to help needy kids catch up with their more privileged peers. But the state of Illinois is increasingly tapping into those funds to pay down the Teachers Retirement System’s pension liability. 

The school system losing the most money in this scheme is Springfield’s District 186. So I asked Larry McVey, coordinator of Springfield’s Title 1 programs, to explain how this happened.

Illinois State Board of Education


Members of Illinois' House Government Administration Committee hoped to grill Superintendent Tony Smith about expensive perks he gets on top of his $225,000 salary. But the invitation was declined by Board Chair James Meeks, who sent a letter to the committee saying he wanted to discuss the request with the school board. A day later at the state board’s meeting, Smith referred reporters to Meeks.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Timothy Killeen, president of the University of Illinois, joined top executives from eight other public colleges making the rounds of legislative leaders' offices at the statehouse yesterday in an effort to remind lawmakers that their campuses are hurting without state funds. Killeen said they were simply making the case for the future of Illinois.

 

ilga.gov

Top officials of the state board of education declined to appear before a House committee yesterday to answer questions about costly perks being paid to the board’s superintendent, Tony Smith. Smith was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner, and receives a stipend on top of his $225,000 salary. 

http://401kcalculator.org

Schools in Illinois’ neediest districts are being forced to spend federal funds to prop up the state’s Teacher Retirement System. 

Courtesy of Pete Carney

Five years ago, Pete Carney and a friend wrote a little textbook and got it printed up at Kinko’s. Within a few months, it was adopted by the prestigious International Baccalaureate program. It’s now used in more than 200 schools, several colleges and universities, and is up for adoption by the Los Angeles school district. It recently beat out McGraw-Hill to be adopted for use in middle schools and high schools across the state of Florida.

That’s not bad for a guy with zero credentials in education.

Courtesy of Ricca Louissaint

Illinois needs more college-educated workers and can't meet that goal with traditional students. Here's what some schools are doing to attract adult learners.

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