NPR Illinois Education Desk

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.

Lincoln Land Community College says it will offer help to students of ITT Technical Institute displaced after the school announced this week it's closing.  Lincoln Land is designating a special advisor to work one on one with those students and give them options for enrolling. 

Courtesy of Shannon Bumann

Last month, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed a bill into law that will allow high school or middle school students excused absences from school for playing the song Taps at military funerals in the state.

Rep. Don Moffitt, a Republican from Gilson, sponsored the legislation. Illinois Issues editor Jamey Dunn sat down with him to talk about it.

The measure goes into effect in January.  You can find out more about Youth Trumpet & Taps Corps, a service organization for high school students, here. 

A law going into effect next month will ban zero-tolerance policies in schools and turn suspension and expulsion into disciplinary options of last resort. Districts throughout the state are taking different approaches to prepare for the changes.

Karen Bridges

Forty years ago, during the summer of 1976, school officials in Illinois’ capital city were in federal court, arguing about how to desegregate Springfield schools. Roger Bridges was one of more than a hundred plaintiffs in the lawsuit, but he emerged as one of the architects of the desegregation plan ultimately chosen by Judge James Ackerman. The plan is still in use today.

As families get set to send their kids back to school, we asked Bridges to remind us why some of our youngest students will be taking the bus.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

In July, Gov. Bruce Rauner established a bipartisan commission to find a way to fix the state's method of funding schools. Beth Purvis is the governor's Secretary of Education and she chairs this new group. When she opened the first meeting with scores of lawmakers and stakeholders in both Chicago and Springfield, Purvis spoke bluntly by reminding participants why Illinois needs a new plan.

“We are ranked 50th, or received an F, by almost everyone who ranked us in terms of the difference between what we spend on our students who live in our, what we consider our wealthiest districts, and those who are in our poorest," she said.

Eric Mason, an 18-year-old Lanphier graduate, was recognized by the Illinois State Fair for overcoming incredible odds to become a high achiever.
Amanda Vinicky / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

After 163 years, the Illinois State Fair is always adding traditions. New this year is the Hometown Hero Award, recognizing people who "perform selfless acts, overcome incredible odds and reach milestone achievements."

The inaugural winner is a teenager Eric Mason.

Eric just graduated from Springfield's Lanphier High School. And on Saturday, he left to begin college at Stanford University. That means he won't be around to partake in the glory, like joining the Grand Marshal to lead the Illinois State Fair Parade on Thursday, that comes along with being the "hometown hero."

Carolyn Tiry

 

In 1983, the principal at Hazelwood East High School in suburban St. Louis censored two stories from the student newspaper. One concerned divorce, the other was about teen pregnancy. The students sued, claiming their First Amendment rights had been violated. Their case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices decided that school administrators had the right to exercise “prior restraint” in school-sponsored forums like student newspapers and assemblies.

A generation of student journalists have been hemmed in by that ruling. But last week, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed legislation that frees high school students from this restriction.

govst.edu / wiley.com

Today from the Education Desk, we have a book review from the president of Governors State University. Elaine Maimon tells us about "The Undergraduate Experience: Focusing Institutions on What Matters Most."

Jim Broadway publishes the Illinois School News Service. It’s a subscription-based online newsletter for educators, documenting policy as it’s crafted and implemented at the state level. He recently wrote a roundup of education bills that came before the 99th General Assembly, and talked to Illinois Edition about some that became law, and some that didn’t.

The Illinois State Board of Education says it will no longer administer the Partnership for the Achievement of Readiness for College and Careers standardized test to high school students.

Courtesy of Stand for Children Illinois

A big chunk of Illinois school funding is distributed through a complicated formula known as the "poverty grant." We asked a numbers interpreter to untangle it for us.

uis.edu

MAP grants — the monetary award program that helps low-income students pay college tuition — will receive some funding through the stopgap measure approved last week by Illinois lawmakers. But a new survey conducted by the agency that administers the MAP program shows the detrimental effects the state budget impasse has already had on those students’ enrollment decisions. 

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner has always said schools are his top priority. Last year, he vetoed the budget except for schools. In the stopgap plan negotiated by leaders this week, most services get only six months of funding, but pre-kindergarten through high school grades get a full year. That includes an increase of more than $330 million.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

About a dozen college and university officials gathered at the capitol today to remind lawmakers of the desperate situation schools find themselves in. Most have gone for a year with less than a third of expected state funds. The coalition included presidents of institutions as enormous as the University of Illinois System and as small as the private liberal arts school Illinois College in Jacksonville, whose president warned that state funds need to come quickly.

Courtesy of WIU

The board of trustees at Western Illinois University recently voted to eliminate four majors -- African American Studies, Women's Studies, philosophy and religious studies. The vote came on a recommendation from the school's interim provost, Kathleen Neumann, who says money had nothing to do with the decision.

 

Courtesy of Rock Island Schools

Thanks to the ongoing budget impasse, school districts around Illinois are scrambling to figure out how to open without state funding. Schools that operate year-round will be the first to face their day of reckoning.

Dusty Rhodes

Illinois Secretary of Education Beth Purvis is pushing Gov. Bruce Rauner’s plan to make sure schools open on time this fall.

The Republican has called for sending an extra $100 million to schools — the one area of the budget he has not held up in order to pass his legislative agenda.

In a conference call with reporters yesterday, Purvis deflected questions about Rauner’s remarks earlier this week in which he described some Chicago Public Schools as “crumbling prisons.”

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

The Illinois legislature adjourned last night with no budget for education -- at any level.

John Cullerton
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

As the clock ticks down on the General Assembly, lawmakers are struggling to avoid the debacle of public schools not opening in the fall. But they’re having a tough time coming up with a school funding formula that pleases both parties.

A lawsuit filed this month in federal court aims to reverse policies adopted in many Illinois school districts that allow transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that align with their identity. Palatine School District 211 is a defendant in the case, along with the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice.

School desks
Flickr user: dcJohn www.flickr.com/photos/dcjohn/

Illinois' leaders are divided over school funding as ever, even as superintendents continue to sound the alarm about fears education funding will get caught in the political stalemate.

Gov. Bruce Rauner wants to increase how much Illinois sends schools overall, by $120 million.

Even then, some districts -- including the financially beleaguered Chicago Public Schools -- would see their state funding drop. Senate President John Cullerton Monday nixed that as a viable option.

Senators Kimberly Lightford and William Delgado debate in the corridor of the statehouse
Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois

Should kids be allowed to skip standardized tests? In Illinois, children already have the right to refuse to take, for example, the PARCC test, associated with Common Core. Last year, the number of children who exercised that right amounted to 4.4 percent of eligible students statewide.

 

That may sound like an insignificant number, but consider this: The previous year, just one half of one percent of eligible students in Illinois opted out.

Illinois Issues: A Schooling in Democracy

May 5, 2016
Chicago Public Schools Board of Education

State lawmakers are considering whether school board members in Chicago should be elected — as they are in all other Illinois school districts.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Gov. Bruce Rauner visited Auburn High School this morning. Rauner told students the main reason he was in their gymnasium was to thank their teachers for doing the most important job in the America. But he also promoted his plan to increase school funding statewide by about $50 million.

 

That plan would end up costing some needy districts millions of dollars, while adding funds to wealthier areas, because the money would be funneled through a formula widely described as the most inequitable in the nation.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

It’s official: Governor Bruce Rauner today signed legislation that provides a bit of relief to state colleges and universities desperate for funds. 

SHG

Sacred Heart-Griffin High School's long time principal has announced her retirement.

public domain

High school seniors who plan to go on to college should be finalizing their dorm and roommate choices about now.

But this year, those decisions aren’t about who brings the mini-fridge. With a total lack of  state funding for higher education, it’s about which schools and programs will be fiscally stable, or whether to go at all.

Gov. Bruce Rauner
Brian Mackey / NPR Illinois

Lawmakers got a look at Gov. Bruce Rauner's school funding proposal today. 

 

As promised, the governor's plan gives every district the full amount of state aid due under the current school funding formula. But that formula, which relies heavily on property taxes, has been called the most inequitable plan in the nation. 

ilga.gov

In some Illinois school districts, transgender students are allowed to use the bathrooms and locker rooms that match their gender identity, rather than their anatomy. But an Illinois lawmaker wants to change that.

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