* Dusty Rhodes at Illinois Public Radio…
More than a year ago, Illinois lawmakers approved a total overhaul of the way the state funds schools. That landmark legislation, known as “evidence-based funding,” got a lot of media attention. But at the same time, something else happened that went totally unreported: The state also changed the number of instructional hours required in a school day from five to zero.
Let’s be clear: The new law didn’t force any changes, so most districts carried on with their usual schedules. And as soon teachers unions noticed the five-hour requirement had been dropped, they began to lobby to reinstate it.
But by that time, a few districts had embraced the new flexibility, and didn’t want to give it up. That left the Illinois State Board of Education caught in the middle. […]
“We found that many districts were primarily using flexibility this winter for e-learning days for students,” [Amanda Elliott is director of legislative affairs for the ISBE] says. “We heard from districts that they saw this as an opportunity to allow more use of dual credit classes, internships, career based learning experiences, and so there’s a lot of excitement about what this could mean for schools and students in Illinois.”
But now there’s legislation that’s going to restore the clock hours. It’s contained in an amendment that’s been negotiated by the state’s largest teachers union and a representative from a group of the most well-financed school districts — the kind most ready to take advantage of all this flexibility.
The amendment, however, contains some exemptions. Go read the rest for more info.
* Greg Hinz at Crain’s…
In his first major legislative initiative, new Illinois Manufacturing Association President Mark Denzler says his top legislative priority is a bill that would waive tuition and other fees (including on-campus housing) at the University of Illinois and other state colleges and universities for students studying science, technology engineering or math who agree to teach in a state high school for at least three years after graduation, or a state institute of higher education for at least five years. […]
“If you talk to people in community colleges, they’ll tell you them they have plenty of classrooms available. What they lack is qualified staff”—instructors capable of teaching in the so-called STEM disciplines, he added.
The bill involved passed the Senate last year but stalled in the House. It is sponsored again this year by Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. Denzler said he’s been discussing the proposal with House leaders and officials in Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s administration, and is hopeful of getting them to go along.
School labor unions have not yet signed on to the bill, but the measure comes amid the rising number of Illinois high school graduates who end up attending college out of state, with many never returning here. The estimated first-year cost is about $1.5 million, Denzler said, though that figure could multiply quickly in the future if the program works.
Eastern Illinois University, the Illinois Community College Board and the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance have signed on as proponents.
The staff of the state charter commission has recommended that two charter schools rejected by Chicago have another chance to open their doors to students.
On Tuesday, the Illinois State Charter School Commission will consider those recommendations to approve a new citywide school run by Intrinsic, which wants to replicate its Level 1-plus campus, and to keep open a school by Urban Prep West, whose school was ordered closed.
On another appeal, the commission’s staff sided with the Chicago district in recommending that Chicago Education Partnership’s proposal for a second campus for its Moving Everest elementary school in Austin be rejected. The fourth school, Kwame Nkrumah, withdrew its appeal.
Earlier this year, the Chicago school board denied all new charter applications for the next school year, and announced plans to shutter two currently operating charter schools.
* Capitol News Illinois…
A state senator wants to give all Illinois high school students the opportunity to walk across the graduation stage with an associate degree to complement their diploma.
Senate Minority Leader Bill Brady, a Bloomington Republican, told the Senate Education Committee this week he is still fine-tuning the proposal, Senate Bill 2046, but the general premise is to quicken the pace at which young adults can enter the workforce.
“What some states have done, is they have offered or mandated high schools to provide an equivalent that would give people three choices: traditional education, or leave high school with an associate degree with either a path to a vocation or a path to a baccalaureate degree where they would be able to enter college as a junior,” Brady told Capitol News Illinois on Thursday.
As it stands now, Brady’s bill would require high schools to prove there is a path for students to achieve an associate degree by the time they leave high school, but there are no penalties written into the bill for districts that don’t offer such courses.
Zach Messersmith, representing school boards and administrators through the Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance, testified Wednesday as an opponent to the bill as written, but said he discussed it with Brady and planned to work out some disagreements in the legislation. Brady said he is open to negotiation as well, and he was “less than thrilled” with the initial draft of the bill.
* Report on Illinois School for the Deaf points out flaws: The state’s $18-million-a-year school for about 220 deaf and hard-of-hearing children and young adults from across Illinois hasn’t done enough to update its mission or involve the local and statewide deaf community, a study by a group that evaluates deaf schools says.
* Legislators help women pursuing a return to education with scholarships