School funding proposal. State Sen. Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) has proposed a new version of SB1 and SB16, to shift more money to lower-income school districts by basing 80 percent of state aid on their ability to raise local tax revenue, up from 44 percent. The plan has already faced criticism from Republicans, many of whom represent districts that would see their state revenue cut.
“What we can’t have is a system where we pit school districts against each other,” said Gov. Rauner, according to Crain’s Chicago Business. “We have got to come up with a way to significantly increase funding and focus it on the lower-income districts and rural districts that don’t have the resources.”
Under the plan, the state would also begin assuming the cost of CPS pensions, providing the district with an additional $200 million, but CPS would have to give up most of the block-grant funding it is provided under the existing code. The proposal would cost the state an extra $600 annually in education funding.
Overhaul of DCFS. Illinois’ Department of Children and Family Services has outlined sweeping changes following calls from a federal judge and court panel to transform the dysfunctional agency.
The new system would focus on transforming DCFS culture by retraining staff and by having caseworkers consistently reevaluated by supervisors. It would also reduce the amount of time youth spend in residential treatment centers, where the Chicago Tribune found many children faced sexual and physical abuse, by placing children in foster therapeutic homes.
Advocates have pointed out that this plan may have to adapt to an influx of youth coming in from outside the system, who would usually use services that are facing cuts due to the state’s budget impasse.
Shifting college goals. With no end in sight for the state’s budget impasse, some Illinois high school students and their parents have begun to shift their college searches to private or out-of-state institutions, according to a Chicago Tribune report.
Mount Greenwood resident Michaelene Rosa’s son had planned on going to University of Illinois, where he received a full ride. Now he’s looking at other options because “you’re not going to be in a situation where you’re worried about your program being shut down,” Rosa told the Chicago Tribune.
Last year, state grants provided about $373 million to low-income students, with individual scholarships up to $4,720. This year, the state has not disbursed any MAP dollars. Some schools have covered the need-based scholarships with their own funds, but at others, including the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, hundreds of students must find their own way to pay the extra cost.
Low expectations. A Johns Hopkins’ study released last week reported that white teachers have lower expectations for black students than black teachers do, affirming previous studies calling for more teacher diversity.
Researchers looked at data from an ongoing study that followed thousands of white and black public school students and asked two teachers how far each student would go.
When black and white teachers evaluated the same white student, ratings were about the same. When black and white teachers evaluated the same black student, however, white teachers were nearly 40 percent less likely to think he or she would graduate from high school and 30 percent less likely to think the student would graduate from college.
Testing switch. More states are replacing Common Core tests with the SAT and ACT, making the switch because of concerns about over-testing and giving high school students a break by allowing them to focus solely on the college entrance exam, which many had planned to take anyway.
The state will now fund and require the SAT for every public school junior, as it used to for the ACT, which was cut when PARCC began.