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.

Karen Walrond

Kelly Wickham Hurst spent about 20 years with Springfield School District 186. As guidance dean, she frequently took to social media to share stories of black students being treated unfairly, and her efforts to advocate on their behalf. Sprinkled in among those stories were hints that some colleagues resented her, like the time a teacher inadvertently flashed a text message over the classroom projector and students saw Hurst referenced by a derogatory term. So it was no surprise when she parted ways with the school district and started an initiative called Being Black At School.

The Illinois Campaign for Political Reform recently compared enrollment data of Illinois public colleges and universities against similar schools in six neighboring states. 

BlueRoomStream.com

When Congress passed the Every Student Succeeds Act, it represented something rare these days -- a new law with bipartisan support. That’s largely because it replaced No Child Left Behind, which was almost universally unpopular.

But writing regulations for the new law fell to the federal Department of Education -- the same agency that enforced No Child Left Behind. In a recent column for US News and World Report, Illinois superintendent Tony Smith complained the DOE was perpetuating the same practices in the new regulations.

Brent Clark, Illinois Association of School Administrators
Courtesy of IASA

When it comes to equity in school funding, Illinois ranks last among all 50 states. So over the summer, various groups of lawmakers have been meeting with stakeholders, trying to come up with a plan that will send state dollars to the school districts that genuinely need help. Brent Clark has been attending all those meetings.

Courtesy of Jim Melvin

Jim Melvin is finally fulfilling a lifelong dream. He's a rookie in the classroom, but a seasoned veteran at real life. At age 59, he's in his first full year of teaching social studies at V.I.T. High School -- a small school near Macomb, Illinois.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Kimberly Thomas is the reigning Illinois Teacher of the Year. The title doesn’t come with a satin sash and a tiara, but you might think it does once you get a taste of Thomas’s extreme effervescence. This Peoria math teacher has a lot more going for her than just bubbles and fizz, but you have to get you a sip of that first.

Courtesy of Anderson, Hampton

A new school discipline law goes into effect this week, setting strict limits on the reasons principals can use to suspend or expel students. The measure was the culmination of a years-long effort by young adults in Voices of Youth in Chicago Education, or VOYCE. They called it the “Campaign for Common Sense Discipline,” and the goal was to put an end to punitive policies that made kids miss class due to infractions like chewing gum or violating dress code.

 

Quentin Anderson, just 28 years old himself, directed the lobbying effort. And every time I heard him speak to lawmakers, he told the same personal story.

When it comes to school funding, Illinois has been ranked as the worst in the country because our system is so inequitable. Basically that means some schools offer a lot of advanced placement courses and have fancy science labs and swimming pools, while other schools can’t afford new math books and have to cut their band programs. The fight over how to fix this has gone on for years.

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner announced that he was creating a bipartisan commission to change the way Illinois funds public schools. That commission held its third meeting yesterday. But there’s another commission tackling the same topic, and its founder claims her group is getting more work done.

Cortlon Cofield posed with his sister Chloe at his graduation last May.
Cprtlon Cofield

Cortlon Cofield said Thursday nights were always special during his freshman year at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. That’s because Thursdays were "Food for the Soul" night in the Florida Avenue Residence Hall (known as FAR).

flickr/LizMarie_AK

  Downstate schools would be the primary winners under a proposed school funding overhaul before the General Assembly. A report from Illinois' board of education could lead to a regional divide when it comes up for a vote.

Illinois' public school system relies heavily on property taxes, often meaning the quality of a student's education will depend on his or her zip code.

But a proposal in the General Assembly would completely change the state's complicated funding formula.

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