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Education

  • Plan to study chronic absence cases becomes law

    Empty school hallwayCHICAGO – To better understand the scope and effects of truancy and absences so officials can address them, a new law will require schools to collect and review chronic absence data. Sponsored in the Illinois Senate by State Senator Jacqueline Collins, the measure was signed into law Friday.
     
    “There are many complex causes behind absences or chronic truancy,” Collins said. “We need to identify those factors and how widespread they are so we can work directly with schools and families to address the root causes of why so many of our children are not making it to class. And I want to thank the bill’s House sponsor, Representative Linda Chapa LaVia for sponsoring this legislation.”
     
    The legislation also encourages schools to provide support to students who are chronically absent. The legislation was House Bill 3139, and takes effect in July of 2018.

  • Shortage of agriculture education teachers to be studied: Bennett

    bennett 052517SPRINGFIELD – A shortage of trained teachers for agricultural classes in schools may soon have a solution under legislation signed by the governor today. The governor signed the bill at the Illinois State Fair’s annual Agriculture Day.

    Despite the fact that 25 percent of jobs in Illinois are related to agriculture, there is a shortage of trained agriculture teachers.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) sponsored Senate Bill 1991 to try and address this problem.

    “Agriculture and downstate Illinois are inseparable,” Bennett said. “We must recruit and retain qualified educators who want to teach agriculture programs for future generations.”

    SB 1991 creates the Agriculture Education Shortage Task Force, which will make recommendations on recruiting and retaining agriculture education teachers and making reforms to current licensure and testing requirements.

    The final report will be released no later than January 1, 2019. Members of the task force will serve voluntarily and will not be compensated with taxpayer money.

  • Trotter urges Rauner to release state money for Olive-Harvey Transportation, Distribution and Logistics Center

    Sen. Donne Trotter

    CHICAGO – Sen. Donne Trotter is among those who are demanding the governor release state money for completion of a college training center that is expected to prepare students for thousands of transportation-related jobs in the Chicago region.

    Construction on the $45 million Olive-Harvey Transportation Distribution and Logistics Center was halted in 2015 because of the state budget stalemate. Lawmakers included $15 million for the center in the state budget they approved in July. Weeks later, Gov. Bruce Rauner has not released that money.

    “This hold on the TDL Center is hurting the prospect of job growth in an area that desperately needs it,” said Sen. Trotter, a Chicago Democrat and vice chairman of a key Senate budget committee. “It’s time for Gov. Rauner to do what’s right to help train the people of Chicago.”

  • Stadelman measure could help Rockford-area adults earn high school diplomas

    stadelman 042617SPRINGFIELD – Thousands of adults in Winnebago and Boone may get the chance to earn their high school diploma, thanks to legislation that passed the Illinois House yesterday.

    The measure, sponsored by State Senator Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford) in the Senate, effectively eliminates the existing law prohibiting school districts from awarding high school diplomas to anyone over the age of 21.

  • Senators welcome students for Tech Day 2017

    Tech Day 2017Students and teachers from across the state gathered at the Capitol last week as part of Tech Day 2017. The annual event allows students to showcase how technology is being utilized in the classroom.

    Participants in Tech Day raise awareness of the role technology plays in preparing students to communicate effectively and succeed in the workforce.

  • Lightford measure aims to keep reenrolled dropouts in school

    lightford sb446 050217SPRINGFIELD— Re-enrolled dropouts could receive more resources under legislation steered by Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood) that was approved in the Senate today.

    School districts with a high dropout rate would receive more funding for each student that was dropped from enrollment rolls for at least one month and was re-enrolled into an evidence-based and best practices program for high school dropouts.

    “We are addressing the reality that educators need resources to keep at-risk students in the classroom,” Lightford said. “If our goal is to get these students back on track, they need to be placed in programs tailored to their needs.”

    Senate Bill 446 provides an incentive weighting of two times the foundation level of support for each re-enrolled high school dropout for districts with two times the state high school dropout rate.

  • Senate Dems on CPS crisis: school children aren’t political pawns

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    A Cook County judge rejected a Chicago Public Schools injunction request in its state education funding lawsuit today. The school district needs an additional $215 million for pensions to avoid an early shutdown on June 1. CPS does not have the funds necessary to finish the school year and make their required pension payment. Senate Democrats reacted to the ruling with the following statements:


    “The General Assembly has a responsibility to make sure the academic progress of Chicago’s children is not disrupted due to our governor’s unwillingness to help them. His rhetoric has done nothing but alienate these children, and their education is not a political pawn.” – Assistant Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood)


    “I want to be very clear in explaining what this lawsuit is really about. CPS educates almost 20% of all students statewide, yet receives 15% of state funding. That means that for every dollar the state spends on educating students outside the city limits, a CPS student only gets 74 cents. This lawsuit is about equality.

    “90% of students in CPS are students of color. If we truly believe that education is a solution to inequality, it is time to start acting like it.

    “With a Cook County judge ruling against CPS and in favor of Illinois’ discriminatory, worst-in-the-nation school funding formula, Governor Rauner’s political divisiveness and disregard for our communities has full approval to continue. It is time to reform the school funding formula before Governor Rauner forces a CPS shutdown and anywhere from 2 to 2.5 million students are unable to go to school.” - Senator Omar Aquino (D-Chicago)


    “This ruling underscores the need in Chicago and the rest of Illinois for a fair public education funding system and a comprehensive state budget to back it up. That remains my top priority at the Capitol, and I would encourage everyone set aside politics and work toward compromise.”  - Senate President John J. Cullerton (D-Chicago)


    “Chicago students are at risk of having their education disrupted by the governor’s political agenda, and unfortunately this court ruling has failed to protect them. It is unacceptable that 2.5 million students labor under an unfair and unequal funding system. We owe it to them and to the future generations of Chicago to fund this system equitably.”  – Senator Jacqueline Collins (D-Chicago)


    “Illinois school districts are in a state of emergency, and I’ve seen little evidence that the governor understands the magnitude of their crisis.”

    “Somehow, lawsuits, social media campaigns and thunderous rallies outside the doors of his office aren’t getting the message across to him. News reports about districts nearly missing payroll, cutting programs and laying off teachers apparently aren’t setting off alarms, either, because he’s done very little to move the ball forward on school funding reform.

    “Superintendents and parents are sending a clear message to Springfield: their schools can’t survive much longer under the status quo. It’s up to Gov. Rauner to bring lawmakers together to get a balanced budget and to revamp the state’s school funding formula. Only then can we begin to ensure all students benefit from fair and adequate school funding in Illinois.” - Senator Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill)


    “Governor Rauner has made it clear that Chicago’s children are just pawns in his political game, but I am hopeful that enough members of the General Assembly will come together to provide Chicago Public Schools with the same level of funding that every other school district receives. It’s time to put politics aside and put our children and their education first.” - State Senator Patricia Van Pelt (D-Chicago)


    “Children throughout Chicago now face a possibility that their education may be irreparably harmed due to the financial situation CPS faces. The last thing we should be doing is playing politics with any child’s education. Instead, the General Assembly needs to move forward on a funding formula that properly supports all children’s education, including those in Chicago.” - Senator Bill Cunningham (D-Chicago)


    State Senator Mattie Hunter (D-Chicago) responded to Rauner Education Secretary Beth Purvis calling the fair funding lawsuit a “distraction.”

    “Our children are not a distraction. I resent the implication that low income children in my district are a distraction. The children of Chicago are facing the real possibility of having their academic progress disrupted.”

    “Governor Rauner continues to play political games and refuses to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation. Time after time, he has turned his back on Chicago’s students.

    “It is absolutely unfair and unacceptable for children in some parts of our state to receive better education than others and for the governor and the state to sit by and do nothing.”

  • Bennett: Permanent property tax freeze would squeeze local schools

    bennett 053116SPRINGFIELD – A permanent property tax freeze from Springfield will only squeeze local schools and park districts according to one Illinois State Senator.

    State Senator Scott Bennett (D-Champaign) says that while the freeze may be a good talking point, in reality it squeezes school districts that have been shortchanged by Springfield for years.

    “Before the governor demanded a permanent property tax freeze, he never met with the Illinois State Board of Education to determine what it would do to local school districts,” Bennett said. “I don’t know how you make a decision that consequential without talking to your own experts.”

    In a hearing on Thursday at the Senate Appropriations Committee, Bennett challenged the assertion that Springfield’s freezing of property taxes permanently will amount to returning control to taxpayers.

    “Springfield does not spend or collect a single dollar of property taxes,” said Bennett. “Property taxes are set locally by people we elect, that is the very essence of local control.”

    Bennett later said that while he agrees that the property tax burden is large, he believes the Senate’s bipartisan plan to temporarily freeze property taxes will bring stability and predictability.

    “What we have proposed in the Senate is to freeze property taxes for a few years so we can see the results,” Bennett said. “If there are no negative effects and the voters are happy with the freeze, they will be more than able to decide to extend it.”

  • 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 number 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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