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Education

  • Stadelman passes measure to direct federal funds to at-risk students

    stadelman 042617SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) secured passage of legislation today that will protect federal funding for the Rockford public school district.

    The measure, effective July 1, ensures federal funds meant for Title 1 programs go to help low-income children rather than paying into teachers’ pensions and could free up millions of federal dollars for Rockford public schools.

    “Right now, school districts are being required to use federal funds that are meant to go to students to pay down the state’s pension debt,” Stadelman said. “This disproportionately affects at-risk students in the districts that need help the most.”

    The legislation allows school districts to pay into federally funded teachers’ pensions at the same rate as all other teachers, cutting the districts’ contribution rate from 45 percent to 7 percent. Individual teachers’ pensions would not be affected.

    Dr. Ehren Jarrett, Rockford Public Schools Superintendent, testified in committee in favor of the legislation last month.

    “What we’re advocating for is to let those federal dollars go to what the teachers and the principals in those schools say they need most, which is support for struggling students,” Jarrett said. “This is an opportunity for equity for those schools.”

    Title 1 funding provides federal assistance to school districts with high percentages of low-income students to make sure their educational needs are met. Schools can use the funds for schoolwide programs or programs targeted at individual students, but they are intended to bring students up to the state’s academic standards.

    SB 195 passed unanimously in the Senate and will move to the House for consideration.

  • Lightford: We must limit the amount of children being expelled before kindergarten

    Sen. Lightford discusses HB 2663

    Children in public preschools are more than three times more likely to be expelled than children in kindergarten through 12th grades, according to a report by Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Illinois. Today, Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) joined a group of law enforcement officials and colleagues from both chambers to discuss a proposal that would keep more at-risk preschool students in the classroom.

    The proposal, which was approved in the House with significant bipartisan support 95-20, would prohibit the expulsion of children enrolled in early childhood programs receiving grants from the Illinois State Board of Education. The legislation focuses on transitioning children to programs that better fit a child’s needs.

    “Disrupting academics is the last thing we should do,” Lightford said. “Children’s time in the classroom is vital, and we need to make sure we are connecting children with the right support.”

    House Bill 2663 not only serves young children, but it also acknowledges that educators need more support when instructing children with behavioral and mental health issues. There are a number of programs that work with teachers and parents to prevent further difficulties and build on children’s social-emotional skills.

    “Expulsion should always be a last resort, not the first option,” Lightford said. “This measure is a good start to ensuring the success of young children by focusing on their comprehensive development.”

    The plan is currently in the Senate and will be heard in the Education Committee in the coming weeks.

  • Lightford proposes more funding for educating reenrolled dropouts

    lightford 040417SPRINGFIELD- Districts with high dropout rates could soon receive more funding to help retain students under a proposal led by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) that was approved in the Senate Education Committee today.

    “There is a disincentive to re-enroll dropouts based on low attendance rates, and the resources to get students back on track are not available to guarantee their success,” Lightford said.

    Senate Bill 446 would provide high schools with high dropout rates with increased state funding to provide an incentive to bring students back to the classroom. Re-enrolled students would have to be placed into an evidence-based model and best practices program for high school dropouts.

    “Students in these high dropout rate districts need support and guidance to get across the finish line,” Lightford said. “Educators should feel encouraged, not punished, for doing what is right and educating these students.”

    The measure now moves to the full Senate for consideration.

  • Top new education laws for Illinois in 2016

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  • New program to support agricultural educators signed into law

    holmes 120715SPRINGFIELD — The state will extend additional funding to the teachers who educate the next generation of Illinois farmers thanks to a new law signed today. State Sen. Linda Holmes was chief co-sponsor of the legislation.

    “Illinois farmers feed the world, and we need to ensure there are aids and incentives in place for the educators who are going to teach them how to do it,” Holmes said. “This program acknowledges that need and focuses resources to meeting it. I’m glad to see it passed into law today.”

    The new law establishes an agricultural education teacher grant program to fund personal services costs for agricultural education teachers in school districts. The legislation also officially recognizes agricultural education as a course of study with staff shortages, a designation which can give those seeking to become teachers consideration for certain scholarships.

    The legislation was Senate Bill 2975. It takes effect Jan. 1, 2017.

  • New law prioritizes agriculture education in Illinois schools

    soybeansCHAMPAIGN - State Senator Scott Bennett, the new Vice-Chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, is excited to announce that Illinois has a new measure to prioritize agriculture education in schools across the state.  

    Bennett’s legislation that will create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for agriculture education teachers, Senate Bill 2975, was signed into law today. 

    “Agriculture is the backbone of our state’s economy,” Bennett said. “We need to do whatever we can to train our future farmers and prioritize agriculture curriculum in schools across our communities.”

    Under Senate Bill 2975, if a school district creates a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth years.

    “Education is essential,” Bennett said. “When students are exploring different career paths, they need to know agricultural sciences is a possibility.”

    This law will also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education.

    Currently, only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

    “Let’s work together to train our future farmers,” Bennett said. “Programs like this are essential to keeping Illinois’ agribusiness growing.”

  • Cunningham: Illinois continues to lead in agriculture education

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  • Collins’ proposed education improvements become law

    collins 041316SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-Chicago 16th) was pleased to announce the governor signed into law on Friday three pieces of legislation she sponsored to improve the quality of public K-12 education in Illinois.

    •  House Bill 3199 requires charter schools, which are funded with public dollars, to comply with all state absenteeism and truancy laws applicable to traditional public schools.
    • Voting yes for Illinois' future

      busesChildren who come to school with the least deserve our help the most.

      Senate President John Cullerton todaywill put up for a vote Senate Bill 2054, a preschool-through-high school (P-12) education funding bill. Under this legislation, school districts throughout the state with low-income students will gain state funding. Students in Chicago will gain, students in downstate communities that have lost their coal mines and factories will gain, and students in every one of the 15 school districts here in Senate District 43 will gain.

      Illinois, despite all the bad press, remains the fifth most-populous state with the fifth-largest economy of any state. It is morally right and economically necessary to use our resources to offer all Illinois school children a first-class education.

      P-12 funding is the keystone of efforts to pass a state budget to support human services, higher education, public safety and highway construction. Please urge Governor Rauner, the legislative leaders, and Senate and House members to support SB 2054.

    • Trotter moves P-12 education funding in Senate (VIDEO)

      trotter 053116Senator Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) championed a budget bill to ensure Pre-K and K-12 schools could open on time this year.

      House Bill 2990 would provide a $75 million increase in funding for early childhood education and provide additional money for P-12 education.

    • McGuire shows support for fair school funding

      Senator Pat McGuireSPRINGFIELD — State Senator Pat McGuire (D-Joliet) joined members of the Senate Downstate Caucus on Tuesday in support of a measure that more equitably funds Illinois’ public schools.

      The Downstate Caucus held a press conference to brief reporters about Senate Bill 231, sponsored by State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill), which changes a nearly 20-year-old formula for how the state distributes its funding for K-12 education. A key provision of SB 231 shifts state money away from wealthier school districts — whose high property values fund a high level of per-pupil spending — to those districts with a higher proportion of low-income students.

      “In Illinois, the quality of a child's education too often depends on the child's ZIP code. Senator Manar's measure would correct this,” McGuire said. “I urge the governor to re-think his opposition to SB 231. To bring back Illinois, we need to bring every child's education up to world-class level. That's morally right, economically necessary, and SB 231 is the conscientious way to do it."

      Under SB 231, no district would receive less state money from 2015 levels, and many areas will see that 100 percent of its students get an increase in funding.

      “Kids in Illinois cities hit hard by factories closing in the 1980s and ever since badly need a boost,” McGuire said. “This legislation helps students in Joliet, Chicago Heights, Elgin, Rockford… SB 231 will help transform Illinois’ Rust Belt into the asset we need it to be.”

      SB 231 recently passed a key Senate committee and will be debated on the floor later this week.

    • Manar, downstate senators demand reform for K-12 funding (AUDIO/VIDEO)

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    • Cunningham fights for making agriculture education a priority

      cunningham ag edSPRINGFIELD—Senator Bill Cunningham passed legislation out of the Illinois Senate prioritizing agriculture education in the state.

      Senate Bill 2975, subject to appropriation, would create a grant to fund up to 50 percent of the personnel costs for an agriculture education teacher. If a school district is creating a new agriculture education program they could receive a grant to fund 100 percent of personnel costs in their first two years and 80 percent in the third and fourth year.

      “We need to prioritize agriculture in our schools. Our economy is driven by agriculture and yet so many students throughout the state have very little opportunity to learn about it,” Cunningham said. “This legislation would allow schools like the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences to easily maintain or create agriculture education programs.”

      The legislation would also add agriculture education as an area of identified staff shortage which would make scholarship money available for those who want to go into agriculture education. Only 61 percent of agriculture jobs will be filled with qualified graduates in the coming years, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

      “We need to emphasize the careers agriculture offers, and one of those is teaching the next generation about those opportunities,” Cunningham said.

      The legislation now moves to the House for further consideration.

    • Senator Forby speaks about fair education funding

      Senator Gary Forby (D-Benton) speaks at a recent press conference about the importance of fair and equitable education funding.


    • Senate panel approves Manar’s school funding reform proposal

      manar 032416SPRINGFIELD- State Senator Andy Manar’s (D-Bunker Hill) plan to update the state’s education funding formula passed through the Senate Executive committee on Wednesday.

      The legislation, Senate Bill 231, provides that state funding for education would be distributed based on student need while ensuring that no district would receive less state money than it did in the 2015-16 school year.

      “Today’s vote was a great step forward in changing what is, without a doubt, the least equitable system of funding education in the nation,” Manar said. “I’m fully committed to hearing input from everyone in the legislature, and throughout the state as this proceeds through the legislature.”

    • Winners, losers predictable in governor's ed funding plan

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    • Harris backs plan to bring resources to struggling local schools

      harris 040516State Senator Napoleon Harris (D-Harvey) released the following statement in support of Senator Andy Manar’s education funding reform legislation, Senate Bill 231:

      “Our kids throughout Chicago and the South Suburbs are facing some tough issues because of where they live, and receiving a quality education shouldn’t be one of them. Thanks to Senator Manar’s initiative, we have the opportunity to open doors for them and all children living in low-income communities by providing more resources to schools who are most in need. Most would agree that education is the gateway to opportunity, and every child deserves a chance to reach their full potential. I look forward to alleviating some of the disparities created within our current system.”

    • Lightford: It’s not too late to do what’s right for our kids

      lightford 040516In response to legislation filed today restructuring the Illinois school funding formula, State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D – Maywood) released the following statement.

      Fairness in our school funding formula has been a topic of legislative debate and revision for decades, yet education equality remains elusive. At some point, justice has to become more than a promise. It must become a reality for all kids.

      Senator Manar has worked tirelessly with leaders on both sides of the aisle and from all sides of the funding debate to construct a bill that takes the well-being of every student, every school and every district into account. It’s not too late for us to do what we should have done decades ago – pass fair education funding reform worthy of our students.

      Like previous versions of education formula reform, such as SB 1, schools with fewer resources will receive more funding under the new version of the plan, but this legislation also allows more districts to qualify for additional funding through a widened adequacy grant, institutes a complete hold harmless for the next fiscal year and creates an evidence-based panel to oversee implementation of any changes.

      The legislation is filed as Senate Bill 231.

    • Manar: Time is now to change school funding (VIDEO)

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    • Governor’s resistance to formula change this year will plague Paxton-Buckley-Loda

      manar 032416Spending more won’t fix inequity

      SPRINGFIELD – Students and taxpayers in Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10 are being disadvantaged under Illinois’ antiquated system for funding education. The current education formula funnels money to largely wealthy districts that have the resources to spend as much as $30,000 per student. Recent data suggests that Paxton-Buckely-Loda CUSD 10 spends roughly a third of that per student, about $9,696. Reforming the state’s education funding formula could send more state money to Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

      Unfortunately, Governor Bruce Rauner is pushing to put more tax dollars into the system that shortchanges Paxton-Buckley-Loda. He toured the high school Thursday.

      State Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) appreciates the governor’s commitment to improving education, but is trying to win support for a modern school funding system that better recognizes the needs of schools like Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

      “Increasing our investment in education alone will not get to the heart of the inequity between Illinois’ school districts,” Manar said. “It’s disheartening to hear the governor tell students, teachers and parents all over the state in struggling school districts that he will fix the problem, while he refuses to commit to implementing a more equitable funding formula.”

      Manar is the sponsor of Senate Bill 1, a complete overhaul of the state’s school funding system that prioritizes funding for school districts like Paxton-Buckley-Loda, based on the needs of its students. Under the reform plan, Paxton-Buckley-Loda could see an additional $237,000 in annual state aid, or about $170 more per student. Manar notes that this pending legislation would not require more spending, as the governor has proposed, at the state level. 

      “I have advised the governor that he is making the same mistakes as his predecessors. He thinks we can spend our way out of this problem,” said Manar. “We spend $12 billion today on schools, and we have the least equitable system in America.  We can spend that $12 billion better to drive better results and bridge the inequity gap.” 

      The new proposed funding formula takes student need into account, by providing more money to districts serving higher numbers of low income, special needs or English learning students. According to recent data, 49 percent of Paxton-Buckley-Loda students are low income, close to the state average.

      Roughly 16 percent of students in the district have disabilities, higher than the state average of 14 percent.