NPR Illinois Education Desk

Chassy’s payments stayed out of the public eye primarily through a mechanism under fire in states across the nation: The use of private university foundations to discreetly accept donations that would be public record if given directly to the university. In this case, it was the University of Illinois Foundation that administered the Monsanto payments. DISCLOSURE: The University of Illinois Foundation (UIF) administers the gift funds of NPR Illinois.

Illinois lawmakers may soon take up the controversial question of which bathrooms should be used by transgender students.

Susan Koch, chancellor of the University of Illinois in Springfield, hosted a budget forum last week. And despite receiving no state funding for more than nine months, she had some good news to share with faculty and staff at the forum. 

Rachel Otwell

In some schools around the state - fewer art classes are being taught. Meanwhile, art advocates say they help students creatively problem solve and art is crucial for a well-rounded curriculum.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Some Illinois districts spend just above six-thousand dollars per student in a school year, while other districts spend more than five times that amount. The difference is due to the disparity in property values across the state, because schools rely on property taxes for funding.

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Higher education officials used terms like "starving," "dismantling," and “economic suicide” last week as they tried to persuade state senators to find some way to heal the budget impasse.

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School systems label children with disabilities as "special education" students. But sometimes, what those special children want more than anything is to feel normal.

Thanks to all who took the time to participate in the NPR Illinois Advisory Convening.  K-12 funding was the main topic the group discussed.  Listen to the unedited, raw audio to hear how it progressed.  It has been posted in two parts to make file size manageable.  View the slide show of the participants above.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Parents in the North Mac school district are asking for the dismissal of superintendent Marica Cullen. 

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was signed into law by President Barack Obama a few months ago.

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Congress recently authorized a complete rewrite of the unpopular No Child Left Behind Act. What does that mean for Illinois?

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The budget that Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed yesterday recommends a 16 percent cut to higher education. This year's proposed cut sounds gentler than the 32 percent reduction Rauner recommended last year. But instead of being spread across higher education, virtually all of the pain would fall upon the state's universities.

ACES Too High

Next fall marks the launch of a new school discipline law that limits suspensions and expulsions. To help teachers prepare, the Illinois Education Association brought in Jim Sporleder, an expert in getting even the worst kids to behave.

Dusty Rhodes / NPR Illinois/Illinois Issues

Public schools were singled out in Governor Bruce Rauner's budget address yesterday as one of the rare state services he’s happy to fund. In fact, he said increasing education funding is the one thing that he will not back down on.

Dusty Rhodes / WUIS/Illinois Issues

Democratic lawmakers led a group of college students to the office of Republican Governor Bruce Rauner yesterday. They asked him to fund tuition grants promised to low-income students.

Illinois' school funding formula relies heavily on property taxes, resulting in deep disparities in districts’ levels of spending. When the Illinois State Board of Education met Wednesday, members talked about a potential change to make the funding formula more equitable. 

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. 

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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.

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. 

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

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.


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.

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.

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.

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Learning standards for the arts are changing in the state. It's been about two decades since the guidelines have been updated. Teachers and administrators around Illinois have been meeting regularly since new federal arts standards were released last year. Those guidelines separate the arts into five categories: music, theater, dance, visual art and media arts.

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