Dusty Rhodes

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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.

Illinois ranks second highest in the nation for one very dubious distinction: Losing high school graduates to out-of-state colleges.

One promise heard repeatedly during debate over the Illinois’ new school funding plan was "no red numbers," meaning any legislation that would make a district lose money was dead on arrival. Last month, in a rare bipartisan compromise, lawmakers approved a new plan that contained “hold-harmless” protection.

Gov. Bruce Rauner took sort of a victory lap visiting a Catholic school, a traditional public school and a charter school to celebrate the Illinois General Assembly's approval of a historic school funding overhaul.

The Illinois Senate has approved a new system for funding schools that will reduce large disparities between wealthy and poor districts.

Legislators voted 38-13 on Tuesday to approve the plan that passed the House on Monday. Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner has said he'll sign the bill quickly to get state money to more than 800 districts that have been waiting for funding for the new school year.

Lawmakers have tried for decades to overhaul a school funding formula that's considered the least equitable in the U.S.

It took three different votes, but Illinois may finally be getting the new school funding formula lawmakers have been working on for the past few years. The state House of Representatives yesterday approved a new evidence-based school funding plan. It's a compromise, containing most of the plan Democrats proposed months ago, plus a new $75 million program that would provide tax credits to organizations offering private school scholarships.

Teachers unions criticized that provision.

But Representative Bob Pritchard, a Republican from Hinckley, says this school funding reform measure is one of the best things the Illinois House has done.

Illinois' legislative leaders met at the statehouse Sunday to draft what they hope will be the final touches on a school funding compromise. 

Senate Bill 1 was supposed to help Illinois cure its chronic case of inequitable school funding. The Democrat-sponsored measure has become a partisan controversy that's now preventing state money from being sent to schools.

Legislative leaders yesterday announced they'd achieved compromise, but reports that the deal includes a $75 million tax-credit program for private school tuition scholarships is drawing criticism.

Schools across Illinois are still waiting for state money while legislative leaders try to agree on a new funding formula. Governor Bruce Rauner vetoed large portions of a Democrat-sponsored plan, saying it was too generous to Chicago Public Schools. The list of educators lobbying for lawmakers to override that veto includes some surprising names.

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The debate over school funding in Illinois has focused on Chicago Public Schools, which Governor Bruce Rauner alleges would get a "bailout" under a plan sponsored by Democrats. He vetoed much of that proposal. Legislative leaders are now trying to work out a compromise.

Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed a dozen bills late Friday. Among them: House Bill 3211, a measure that would help low-income students qualify for federal SNAP benefits, formerly known as food stamps. Statewide, that amounts to about 40,000 low-income students, says State Rep. Litesa Wallace (D-Rockford), who sponsored the measure.

School funding stalled a while longer yesterday as Illinois lawmakers instead cast symbolic votes. Democrats took the changes Gov. Bruce Rauner made to their evidence-based model, turned it into a replica bill, then ran it for a vote. It was an exercise designed to prove that Rauner couldn't get enough support to uphold his plan.

Republicans, however, cut the game short by abruptly ending the floor debate. Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), who sponsored the Democrats' plan, chided them for it.

Gov. Bruce Rauner has been drumming up opposition to the Democrats' new school funding plan, known as Senate Bill 1, by touting how much more money each district would receive under his plan. He points to Elgin U-46, the state’s second largest school district, as the biggest winner: That northwest suburban district would gain about $15 million if lawmakers approve Rauner’s amendatory veto.

So that district's CEO, Tony Sanders, must be rooting for Rauner's plan, right?

 

Wrong.

The Illinois State Senate spent Sunday in session, where Senators voted 38 to 19 to override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of the new school funding bill. The override wasn't a surprise, because this new evidence-based funding plan had originally cleared the Senate with a veto-proof majority. The House, however, represents a higher hurdle, where Democrats will need Republicans to vote with them. That vote is scheduled for Wednesday.

 

Sen. Andy Manar, the Bunker Hill Democrat who sponsored the measure, says he'd rather negotiate a compromise.

Between a new state pension plan and Gov. Bruce Rauner's amendatory veto of the Democrats' school funding plan, some school districts would be in for a big hit in July 2020. The two changes would have a particularly significant impact on districts with high rates of teacher turnover and declining enrollment.

For the past 75 years, Illinois has failed to make sufficient contributions to its Teachers Retirement System. As a result, TRS has a massive unfunded liability.

School districts are due to receive state funds Aug. 10th, but that can't happen until lawmakers either override Gov. Bruce Rauner's veto of Senate Bill 1 or come up with some other plan he will sign.

Local school districts would have to pay pension costs for all newly-hired teachers if the General Assembly upholds Governor Bruce Rauner's rewrite of the school funding plan known as Senate Bill One.

Ever since SB1 was approved on votes mainly cast by Democrats, Rauner has promised to rewrite portions that he deemed too generous to Chicago Public Schools. When he issued his amendatory veto last week, it turned out his changes went far beyond CPS.

Schools are set to receive payment from the state in just three days, but that can’t happen until the Illinois legislature approves a new “evidence-based” funding model.

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