Education Desk

Weekly coverage of Education in Illinois.

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.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner has boasted that fixing Illinois’ woefully inequitable school funding formula was his top accomplishment of the past year. But yesterday, he struck down a measure needed to implement that reform, by issuing an amendatory veto of a relatively short, simple “trailer” bill drafted to ensure that the 550-page reform plan squared up with the financial models lawmakers had approved.

For the past several years, Illinois has been losing more college students than any state except New Jersey. Last year, as higher education was starved by the state budget impasse, that trend continued.

Overall, undergraduate enrollment decreased by 2 percent, with even steeper drops at public universities and community colleges. 

Schools defying this trend include those focused on medical professions, such as City Colleges of Chicago's Malcolm X campus. Mark Potter, the provost, said its home in the medical district makes it more attractive.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

School districts had a year to implement a state law that banned zero-tolerance policies and emphasized restorative justice practices. We check back in with five districts we visited  in the summer of 2016 to see how school discipline has changed.

GetGredit.com / Flickr-Creative Commons

A recent report shows Illinois is facing a teacher shortage. But changes to teachers’ pensions — including cutbacks on the state’s share of contributions — spells uncertainty for anyone going into the profession.

Al Bowman midshot in tree-lined area
Illinois State University

Al Bowman, a former president of Illinois State University, has been tapped to lead the Illinois Board of Higher Education. His appointment comes as higher education institutions have seen their budgets slashed and enrollment decline, so it’s hard to know whether to congratulate him.

“You know, I’ve been getting that from people,” Bowman laughs.

He is going into his new job eyes wide open. Illinois ranked number two in the nation for net loss of college students.

Carter Staley / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

Want to know how your kid's school is performing compared to others? The Illinois State Board of Education today released graduation rates, test scores, and other metrics through its online school report cards. Results show that standardized test scores, graduation rates and participation in advanced placement courses are all inching upwards.

entrance to school
Mattoon Community School District 2

Mattoon police say Wednesday’s shooting at Mattoon High School was carried out by one student, who is in custody.

Campus entry signage
University of Illinois Springfield

Enrollment on the University of Illinois Springfield campus fell nearly 9-percent this fall, with most of that drop among graduate students.

BRIAN MACKEY / NPR ILLINOIS | 91.9 UIS

Gov. Bruce Rauner took sort of a victory lap visiting a Catholic school, a traditional public school and a charter school to celebrate the Illinois General Assembly's approval of a historic school funding overhaul.

Kimberly Lightford, Will Davis, and Andy Manar
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

The Illinois legislature on Tuesday approved a major, bipartisan overhaul of the way Illinois funds public education.

Illinois' current school funding formula dates back to 1997. And efforts to replace it with something more logical, more fair, and more equitable? To hear lawmakers tell it, those also date back almost 20 years.

NPR Illinois

The Illinois Senate has approved a new system for funding schools that will reduce large disparities between wealthy and poor districts.

Vote tabluation board in Illinois House.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois 91.9 UIS

It took three different votes, but Illinois may finally be getting the new school funding formula lawmakers have been working on for the past few years. The state House of Representatives yesterday approved a new evidence-based school funding plan. It's a compromise, containing most of the plan Democrats proposed months ago, plus a new $75 million program that would provide tax credits to organizations offering private school scholarships.

Teachers unions criticized that provision.

But Representative Bob Pritchard, a Republican from Hinckley, says this school funding reform measure is one of the best things the Illinois House has done.

Tony Sanders with U-46 students
courtesy of U-46

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been drumming up opposition to the Democrats' new school funding plan, known as Senate Bill 1, by touting how much more money each district would receive under his plan. He points to Elgin U-46, the state’s second largest school district, as the biggest winner: That northwest suburban district would gain about $15 million if lawmakers approve Rauner’s amendatory veto.

So that district's CEO, Tony Sanders, must be rooting for Rauner's plan, right?

 

Wrong.

Swings in school playground
Hal Frain / Flickr (CC X 2.0)

Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner has signed legislation that makes it illegal to expel toddlers from preschools.

Backers of the new law point to a study that says toddlers and other Illinois preschoolers are expelled at a rate three times greater than their older, school-age counterparts.

“I just want you to let that sink in.”

State Rep. Juliana Stratton is a Democrat from Chicago.

“When you see expulsion in early years, it leads to higher suspension and expulsion rates in later grades."

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois State Senate spent Sunday in session, where Senators voted 38 to 19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the new school funding bill. The override wasn't a surprise, because this new evidence-based funding plan had originally cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority. The House, however, represents a higher hurdle, where Democrats will need Republicans to vote with them. That vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

 

Sen. Andy Manar, the Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the measure, says he'd rather negotiate a compromise.

lockers with books inside
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

Between a new state pension plan and Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of the Democrats' school funding plan, some school districts would be in for a big hit in July 2020. The two changes would have a particularly significant impact on districts with high rates of teacher turnover and declining enrollment.

row of lockers
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

School districts are due to receive state funds Aug. 10th, but that can't happen until lawmakers either override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of Senate Bill 1 or come up with some other plan he will sign.

ov. Bruce Rauner held a press conference to demand Democrats send him SB1. He was flanked by Republican lawmakers.
Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Schools are set to receive payment from the state in just three days, but that can’t happen until the Illinois legislature approves a new “evidence-based” funding model.

Ten minutes before Gov. Bruce Rauner's scheduled press conference announcing his amendatory veto of SB1, Sen. Andy Manar and Rep. Will Davis — Democrats who sponsor the school funding legislation — reiterate their desire to negotiate.
Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

With schools set to open in just a few weeks, Illinois still doesn't have any way to send money to schools. K-12 funding has become the latest partisan battleground at the statehouse, and yesterday, one procedural misstep may have inadvertently made the gridlock even worse.

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Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

"Chicago bailout" is the tag Gov. Bruce Rauner and other Republicans pinned on Senate Bill 1, the new school funding plan approved by the General Assembly. So when Democrats finally sent him the bill, Rauner wasted no time cutting portions that help Chicago Public Schools.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

The future of state funding for Illinois schools is still up in the air Monday afternoon. The fight over Senate Bill 1 — legislation that would overhaul the way Illinois supports k-12 schools — has such high stakes and such slim vote margins that it has turned into a parliamentary chess game. Now, the next move belongs to Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE)

Gov. Bruce Rauner has launched a website to show that most school districts stand to gain more state funding under his plan than under the Democrats' plan. How he calculated those numbers is a question reporters have asked repeatedly. We turned to the state board of education for answers.

Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

After the first day of a special session on education, Democratic lawmakers and the Republican Governor Bruce Rauner appear no closer to resolving the dispute that could hold up money for school districts. Rauner continues to demand Democrats send him the funding plan so he can change it and remove additional money for Chicago teacher pensions.

Gov. Bruce Rauner is calling lawmakers back from their summer vacation to deal with a new school funding plan in special session starting Wednesday. The issue has turned into a showdown between the Republican governor and the Democrat-controlled legislature, with the fate of k-12 school children in the balance.

Gov. Bruce Rauner, flanked by Auburn superintendent Darren Root, State Representatives Avery Bourne (R-Raymond) and Sara Wojcicki Jimenez (R-Leland Grove), demands SB1 by Monday at noon.
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

Monday at high noon — That's the deadline Gov. Bruce Rauner has given Democrats to send the school funding bill to his desk. The new state budget requires this revamped funding formula, but Rauner plans to veto certain parts of the plan.

He promises every school district -- except Chicago -- lots more money once he gets to veto portions of the Democrats' bill.

graduation ceremony
WOSU Public Media / flickr

Adults in Illinois who failed to graduate from high school still can earn a General Educational Development certificate, also known as a G-E-D.  But legislation approved by the General Assembly would provide what some consider to be a better alternative. 

Mason jar with coins in bottom.
Carter Staley / NPR Illinois

The new state budget will fund Illinois colleges and universities at the level of funding they received in 2015 — minus 10 percent. But there’s one area of higher education that got a boost.  

Rauner at podium
@GovRauner / Facebook

Lawmakers approved a state budget more than a week ago. But the education portion remains uncertain. For the money to flow, Democrats added a provision that requires enactment of a new school funding plan. Democrats have passed such a plan through both chambers, but Gov. Bruce Rauner, a Republican, says he’ll veto parts of it.

Seaton Township High School District 40

The shakeup in Gov. Bruce Rauner’s office seems to signal a tougher stance on school funding. The state spending plan passed by the General Assembly requires adoption of a new funding formula, but Rauner has promised to veto the only school formula plan that got legislative approval. This standoff might make the lawsuit filed by 21 school superintendents more relevant.

 

The lawsuit, filed in April, demands that Illinois honor its constitutional obligation to provide a high quality education for all students.

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