Dusty Rhodes

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Public schools would have to provide free feminine hygiene products in girls' bathrooms under legislation approved in the Illinois General Assembly.

As budget negotiations continue, one big piece of the puzzle is school funding. We check in with our Education Desk reporter to see which bills are on the table, what they would do, why some “news” outlets say districts would lose money, and whether there’s any chance a bill will pass.

 

Lawmakers of both parties, and even Gov. Bruce Rauner, agree that Illinois doesn't fund schools in an equitable manner. But with the legislative session scheduled to end on May 31, they still can't agree on exactly how to fix it.

 

One plan earned bipartisan approval in a House committee today, clearing a procedural hurdle that positions it for possible speedy passage.

 

Democratic State Sen. Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill, is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of trying to kill his school funding legislation. He says the administration fed erroneous information to a Republican operative's website.

The story in question appears in the Kankakee Times, one of a dozen community news organs created by Dan Proft. Proft runs a political action committee supported by Rauner.

Democratic State Senator Andy Manar, of Bunker Hill, is accusing Gov. Bruce Rauner of trying to kill his school funding legislation. He says the administration fed erroneous information to a Republican operative's website.  The story appears in the Kankakee Times, one of a dozen community news organizations created by Dan Proft.  Proft runs a political action committee supported by Rauner.

Two school funding plans progressed in the Illinois legislature Wednesday. A plan sponsored by Sen. Andy Manar was approved in the Senate, while in the House, a very similar plan sponsored by Rep. Will Davis made it through committee. Does that mean lawmakers may have finally found a way to cure the state's infamously unfair school funding structure?

Commencement ceremonies took place on many college campuses this past weekend, including the University of Illinois. Our Education Desk reporter takes us inside one that's different from all the others — the Black Congratulatory ceremony at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana.

The question of how to fund Illinois schools has become one of the most urgent — yet complicated —issues facing lawmakers.

Students are being told to continue reporting to class at the University of Illinois Springfield, despite the fact that the faculty is on strike. More than 160 tenured and tenure-track professors represented by University Professionals of Illinois have been negotiating almost two years in an effort to get personnel policies included in a contract.

 

Rachel Otwell / NPR Illinois

The University of Illinois Springfield tenure and tenure track faculty is on strike today.  The union representing about 170 professors has been negotiating for months, trying to come to terms on its first contract with the school. The union members authorized a strike a couple of weeks ago. Lynn Fisher, President of the UIS United Faculty union and an associate sociology/anthropology professor, and talked with Illinois Public Radio’s Dusty Rhodes about the issues that led to the walkout. 

It's hard to find an issue that unites Illinois lawmakers, yet members of both political parties and Governor Bruce Rauner have consistently agreed the state needs to change the way it funds schools. Now, with the filing of two separate legislative plans, that once-unison chorus sounds out of tune. State Senator Jason Barickman is the author of one of those plans. Our education desk reporter Dusty Rhodes quizzed him on how he intends to fix the flaws in the state's current funding formula.

UPDATED: The dollars-and-cents details of a new school funding plan were revealed yesterday. Some districts would gain just a few cents per pupil; others would gain more than a thousand dollars per child.

Only a few schools would lose money under the new plan proposed by Sen. Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington. But lawmakers will still have plenty to fight about when they see how few cents some districts gain compared to others.

School funding is one of the key issues in the General Assembly’s budget debate. Everyone agrees the current funding formula needs to change, but there’s less agreement on how to fix it. A bipartisan effort is poised for a floor vote in the House, but in the Senate, compromise appears to have fallen apart.

Professors at the University of Illinois Springfield could go on strike. That’s the result of a vote this week by United Faculty, a chapter of the Illinois Federation of Teachers. Kristi Barnwell, a history professor and vice-president of the faculty union, says the vote doesn’t necessarily mean they will strike.

 

“We’re still hoping that we don’t have to, and that the university’s administration will make some meaningful progress in negotiations at our next bargaining session," she says. "But we needed to let them know that the option is on the table, and our membership is ready if it comes down to that.”

 

Illinois lawmakers from both political parties seem to be gathering behind a new school funding plan called the "evidence-based model." Today, Jason Barickman, a Republican from Bloomington, announced that he plans to file his own version in the Senate.

With multiple legislative proposals, a task force and a lawsuit all aimed at overhauling the way Illinois funds its schools, it’s hard to predict what might happen. But in this chat that aired on Tuesday, our Capitol Bureau reporter Brian Mackey makes me try.  

Lawmakers have been trying to change the way Illinois funds schools for years now, with no luck. But a new plan called the Evidence Based Model seems to be gaining momentum.

Illinois lawmakers from both political parties seem to be gathering behind a new school funding plan called the "evidence-based model." Versions of the plan have been filed in both the House and Senate. The House iteration passed out of committee with bipartisan support.

A Chicago law firm representing a group of mostly rural school superintendents sued the state of Illinois today. They're asking Gov. Bruce Rauner and the state board of education to come up with a funding formula that would help schools meet the state's learning standards.

The 17 superintendents say that — between Illinois' notoriously inequitable funding formula and years of reduced state spending — this lawsuit is their last resort.

Seventeen school superintendents sued the state of Illinois today. They're asking Governor Bruce Rauner and the state board of education to come up with a funding formula that would help schools meet the state's learning standards.

In a way, it's just one little box on a lengthy college application form. But for many would-be students, that box is more of a stop sign if the instructions say "check here if you have a criminal record." State Rep. Barbara Wheeler, a Republican from Crystal Lake, wants to change that. She sat down with our Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes to explain why.

Last week, when Southern Illinois University revealed that its main campus in Carbondale needs to borrow money from its Edwardsville location, the news seemed shocking. Who knew SIU was in such dire straits? It wasn’t the kind of news any school would want to broadcast.

The effort to overhaul the way Illinois funds public schools has been gaining momentum over the past few years, and yesterday, the latest plan got the green light to be heard by the House of Representatives. Sponsored by State Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), the plan cleared committee on a 15-1-0 vote, marking the first time in recent history that a school funding plan got bipartisan support.

That's despite the fact that Davis chose not to provide a spreadsheet showing how much money each district would get.

School funding has been one of the most hotly debated issues in the statehouse, but in recent days, there’s been a glimmer of hope. A Democrat filed new funding plan, and a key Republican in the Illinois Senate appeared to endorse it, issuing a statement saying that he was “cautiously optimistic.” Was this the beginning of a bipartisan solution? We decided to do a reality check.

 

Yet another plan to address the state’s lopsided school funding structure has been filed. This measure would freeze funding at current levels for all districts including Chicago Public Schools.  When new revenue becomes available, it would be handed out based on each district’s demographics and needs, giving more to districts struggling financially. 

Parents alarmed by the realization that their teenagers cannot decipher cursive handwriting have inspired one Illinois lawmaker to propose requiring schools to offer a course on the art of the flowing font.

Kids use computer keyboards for most communication these days, but what if they need to sign a legal document or read a letter from grandma? State Representative Chris Welch, a Democrat from Hillside, says they’re going to need cursive for that. He’s sponsoring a measure that would ensure students receive at least one class in old-school slanted script. 

Property taxes, PE, police, twins, tampons, Title I funds, teacher evaluations, lactating students and lottery dollars — these are a few of the legislative measures working their way through education committees in the General Assembly.

Flickr Creative Commons/Sholeh

Enrollment in Illinois’ public universities and community colleges continues to decline. That’s according to figures released  by the state Board of Higher Education.  The three University of Illinois campuses and Governors State University all experienced slight gains in undergraduate enrollment over the past year, but all other public universities reported declines. 

A.D. Carson grew up in Decatur, graduated from Millikin University, and earned a master's degree here at the University of Illinois Springfield. He’s now a Ph.D candidate at Clemson University, where today he’s defending his dissertation -- a hip-hop project that’s gone viral.

One word of warning: The music in this story contains a racial term some listeners might find offensive, but it’s part of Carson’s scholarly work.

A federal law known as the Every Student Succeeds Act, or ESSA, requires every state to make sure kids become proficient in core subjects, and continue to learn more each year. The law further requires states to come up with a yardstick to measure that success, but allows some flexibility on how heavily test scores will count. Other numbers like graduation rates and college readiness can be factored in.

 

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