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.

I should begin with a word of warning: This story contains several F-words -- and by that, I mean facts, figures and school funding formulas. These have been known to befuddle the very state officials in charge of understanding this stuff. For example, here’s Curt Bradshaw, a third-year member of the Illinois State Board of Education (commonly referred to as ISBE), thinking out loud at their last board meeting: 

Illinois General Assembly

 

Current state law prohibits people with felony records from working in a school, or volunteering, or even driving a truck that makes deliveries to a school. But a measure pending before the Illinois House of Representatives could change that.

State Representative Kelly Cassidy — a Chicago Democrat — sponsors the legislation.

"What we operate under now is based on the assumption that someone with a criminal history is always a criminal, and never eligible to return to productive society,” she says.

courtesy of Oxygen

 

Springfield native Calise Hawkins will be featured in Funny Girls, a new comedy series premiering tonight on the Oxygen channel. Starring six female comics, it’s part reality show, part stand-up showcase, and -- unlike a lot of things on television these days -- it’s not a competition.

“We’re not in this to bash each other and, like, step on each other," Hawkins says. "We’re just living our lives and being in the same field at the same time."

What made her think she could do this?

Will Rogers Institute

That headline is a quote from Will Rogers. It was on a poster I had hanging in my bedroom as a kid, and I took it with me when I went to college. It's been my favorite quote forever. And today, here's a column by  Fareed Zakaria that provides some stats for that. It's an interesting perspective. Check it out.

Rep. Will Guzzardi
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

 A measure pending in the Illinois legislature would give parents the right to have their children skip the standardized test associated with the Common Core curriculum. The plan proposed by Democratic Representative Will Guzzardi, of Chicago would require schools to honor written requests from parents for their kids to skip the PARCC test. Currently, students themselves can refuse testing, if they're able and willing to ask, but Guzzardi says there’s no policy telling schools what to do with those kids.

Illinois already ranked last in the nation in state support for public schools. Cuts announced this week will just make a bad situation worse. But some pending legislation could bring more money to Springfield public schools.

Illinois State Board of Education will have $97 million to distribute to school districts most affected by the unexpected 2.25 percent cut in the current fiscal year budget, expected to be adopted this week. But Mary Fergus, spokesperson for the board, couldn't say how those funds would be distributed. Instead, she offered this statement:

senchapinrose.com

  

Under Governor Bruce Rauner’s budget proposal, public universities are facing a 32 percent cut. Legislators took testimony Thursday on how those cuts would affect each school. 

Each school president testified that Rauner’s reductions would force them to cut courses, decrease scholarships, and layoff staff. Illinois State University say it might have to cut 400 jobs. Northern Illinois University could raise freshman tuition by 75 percent. 

 

As Illinois struggles with public school funding, state officials received some expert advice today:

You have a rare opportunity; don’t mess it up. 

wikimedia commons/Daniel Schwen

 

 

courtesy of Mt. Carmel High School

Rehearsing her students for the big spring musical, Kim Mandrell has crossed two huge worries off her list: She's decided not to have Mary Poppins fly - and this year, for the first time ever, she doesn't have to fret about the safety of the audience.

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.

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