Dusty Rhodes

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One of the biggest changes Gov. Bruce Rauner proposed in today's budget address is making local school districts bear the costs of teacher pensions.

Governor Bruce Rauner's budget address at noon Wednesday is expected to be a plan that would leave the state with a small surplus. But that doesn't mean he's going to get a good grade from math teachers. Or any other teachers.

 

Rauner listed school funding reform as his top accomplishment of 2017. But today, he will ask the General Assembly to shoot a sizeable hole in that plan.  

 

Illinois State Board of Education / Facebook

For the past year or two, public school funding has been a topic of news stories, yard signs and even campaign ads culminating in Illinois lawmakers approving a historic overhaul of the way the state pays for education. But as it turns out, getting the reform signed into law was only half the battle. The nitty-gritty of actually implementing the changes has sparked a series of legislative skirmishes pitting the State Board of Education against some unexpected opponents. Our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes explains.

 

 

The controversial standardized tests known as PARCC could be on their way out after this spring. The Illinois State Board of Education plans to request sealed proposals for a new statewide exam next week. That’s in response to concerns from teachers and parents about the hours-long reading and math assessment that most third- and eighth-graders failed.

After years of cuts and chronic underfunding, state higher education officials voted yesterday to make a modest request for next year’s budget.

Meeting in Springfield, the Illinois Board of Higher Education had a lengthy debate: Do we ask for what we really need? Or do we ask for what we think we can get?

Less than an hour before Gov. Bruce Rauner was scheduled to deliver his State of the State address, lawmakers in the House and Senate voted to override his veto of a small, technical school funding bill necessary to implement the massive school funding reform that Rauner has listed as his main accomplishment.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has claimed his top accomplishment of last year was transforming the way Illinois funds public schools. But the dollars pledged by that new law haven’t been distributed. Instead, Rauner and state agencies have been focused on implementing and expanding a tax credit program for private schools, added to the bill at the last minute to get the governor signature.

For the past month, the Rauner Administration has been working to implement a tax credit program for individuals and corporations who choose to donate up to a million dollars to private schools. But one state senator has proposed legislation to shift the focus to public schools.

Families who send their children to private schools probably thought they received a break under the new federal tax law. But Illinois State Treasurer Michael Frerichs warns that's not necessarily so.

Bright Start and Bright Directions are tax-free savings plans that allow parents to pay their kids' college tuition. The new tax law says these plans, known as 529 accounts, can now be used to pay for up to $10,000 per year in private school tuition for younger kids, too.

Pres. Donald Trump’s administration has been in power for a year now. “State of Trump” is our series discussing what’s changed in the state ... and what might be ahead.

 

Today we hear from high school government teacher Neil Calderon about how the Trump presidency has affected the way he teaches:

 

The Illinois State Board of Education today voted unanimously to ask the general assembly to double state funding for public schools.

Last summer, the legislature voted to change the way Illinois funds schools by adopting what's called an evidence-based model. That model weighs what each district needs against its local resources. As it turns out, some districts can't achieve even 50 percent of adequate funding, while others can get close to tripling what they need.

If you’ve seen Gov. Bruce Rauner’s campaign commercials, you might think the school funding issue was settled last summer. But as often happens with complex legislation, it was followed by a “trailer” bill cleaning up some technical language. Rauner decided to use his veto pen on that bill to lower the bar for private schools to qualify for a controversial tax credit program. Now, the Illinois State Board of Education is warning that “time is of the essence” for the General Assembly to uphold the trailer bill (Senate Bill 444). Without it, nearly 200 Illinois school districts will lose out on equitable funding.

  Governor Bruce Rauner has boasted that fixing Illinois inequitable school funding formula was his top accomplishment of the past year. But Monday, he struck down a measure needed to implement that reform. Our education reporter Dusty Rhodes explains.

Avery / Flickr

Enrollment in colleges and universities continued to decline across the state last year, according to figures released by the Illinois Board of Higher Education. 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, says its home in the medical district makes it more attractive.

 

Beginning this week, people and corporations donating up to $1.3 million for private school scholarships can get a 75 percent credit toward their state income tax. This was a controversial but bipartisan concept, adopted last summer to help forge a compromise in a big overhaul of Illinois' school funding plan.

Such programs have taken off in other states, but it’s off to a slower start here.

Many of us enjoy a party on New Year's Eve or New Year's Day, but for a few wealthy Illinois residents, Jan. 2 will be the day to celebrate. Beginning at 8 a.m., on a first-come, first-served basis, they can reserve a hefty tax credit in return for their donation to a private school.

A new report shows the statewide teacher shortage is felt most acutely in districts with lots of low-income students. But it's also hitting rural and wealthier districts.

Williamsfield is a village halfway between Peoria and Galesburg, with fewer than 300 students. Superintendent Tim Farquer  says he can't find teachers who meet state licensing requirements for every subject. Instead, he's filing paperwork seeking waivers.

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.

Just when you thought the state’s controversial battle over school funding was over, it turns out there’s a few technicalities that need to be addressed.

When it comes to funding public schools, Gov. Bruce Rauner has wavered a bit.

A few months ago, he vetoed a major funding reform bill, saying it sent too much money to Chicago Public Schools. Later, he signed a compromise measure that gave the Chicago schools even more.

Now he has another bill on his desk.

With teachers devoting much of their time to preparing students for standardized tests, penmanship has disappeared from the curriculum in many schools. A new state law approved yesterday will bring it back, to ensure elementary students get instruction in cursive writing — sometime between 2nd and 5th grade.

State Rep. Emanuel Chris Welch (D-Hillside) filed the measure the same day lawmakers approved his resolution on zombie apocalypse preparedness.

Let's say you've got a student loan and you get laid off your job. Your loan servicer suggests something called "forebearance" — the chance to delay payments for a year or two. Sounds tempting, but it ends up costing you more money.

That's one of the many tricky facts loan servicers will have to disclose in Illinois, where lawmakers yesterday approved stringent regulations on student loan service companies.

The Illinois General Assembly has enacted a new set of protections for people with student loan debt.

Gov. Bruce Rauner had vetoed the bill because, he said, it would encroach on the federal government’s responsibilities. But 32 Republicans in the House joined Democrats in voting Tuesday to override the governor's veto.

Bill sponsor Rep. Will Guzzardi, D-Chicago, says the bill deserved bipartisan support.

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.

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.

An Illinois lawmaker is calling on Facebook to ensure political ads are fundamentally factual, after learning the social media giant has no such guidelines.

The debate over school funding dominated much of the legislative session, and concluded with a compromise plan designed to send more state funds to the neediest districts. But so far, those districts haven't gotten any extra funds.

A television commercial​ now airing for Gov. Bruce Rauner touts the school funding reform legislation he signed into law in August. But the campaign spot is somewhat misleading.

The ad begins: “It's been called nothing short of a miracle.”

File FAFSA ASAP!

Oct 3, 2017

Parents of college students and high school seniors headed that way should be busy filling out financial aid paperwork — if they haven’t already.

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (better known as the FAFSA) determines eligibility for all financial aid, including Illinois’ grants for lower-income students.

The old FAFSA application period opened on Jan. 1, and you couldn't complete the form until you'd filed your taxes. But as of last year, the federal government decided to accept “prior prior” year’s taxes,

Illinois’ new school funding plan — approved in August and hailed as a historic change — relies on the legislature to give every school the same state aid it got last year, plus push another $350 million through a new formula. That $350 million is crucial because it’s the part designed to address the inequity that has plagued Illinois schools for decades.

 

State Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, a Democrat from Shorewood, wants to make sure lawmakers don't skip that step.

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