Decatur Scholar Turns Rhymes Into Dope Dissertation

A.D. Carson grew up in Decatur, graduated from Millikin University, and earned a master's degree here at the University of Illinois Springfield. He's now a Ph.D candidate at Clemson University, where today he's defending his dissertation — a hip-hop project that's gone viral. One word of warning: The music in this story contains a racial term some listeners might find offensive, but it's part of Carson's scholarly work.

Rauner Raises The Bar On Academic Standards

Gov. Bruce Rauner has made elementary and secondary education a signature issue of his administration, and today, he met with the State Board of Education in an effort to nudge the state's academic goals higher.

School Funding Plan 'Barely Moves The Ball'

Gov. Bruce Rauner's efforts to equalize school funding in Illinois have gotten a lot of publicity lately, since the bipartisan commission he established concluded by issuing a report earlier this month. But another group of lawmakers was simultaneously tackling the same issue. It was lead by State Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood). What conclusion did that group come to?

One Small Step For Big School Funding Reform

State Rep. Will Davis filed a school funding reform package last week that promises to makes school funding in Illinois more equitable. How much will it cost? How much will each school district gain or lose? Is Davis even going to call the bill for a committee hearing? All good questions with no firm answers.

Manar Says Rauner Should Propose School Funding Bill

Last week, the School Funding Reform Commission wrapped up six months of work trying to fix the state's notoriously inequitable support structure for public schools by producing a report calling for new dollars to go first to school districts that have been historically underfunded. However, the commission stopped short of proposing its own legislation. Sen. Andy Manar, a Democrat from Bunker Hill who has already proposed three school funding reform packages, is calling on Gov. Bruce Rauner's administration to come up with a piece of legislation that would carry out the concepts endorsed in the commission's report.

School Funding: Harder Than Purvis Thought It Would Be

Beth Purvis, Illinois Secretary of Education, led a 25-member commission over six months of meetings, trying to cure the state's notoriously inequitable school funding structure. The commission concluded its work last week by issuing a report, but stopped short of crafting actual legislation. Purvis rarely talks to the media, but on the day the commission adjourned, she spoke for about half an hour with NPR Illinois. This is the second set of excerpts from our interview.

Education Desk: Purvis Proud Of Commission's Process

Beth Purvis serves as Gov . Bruce Rauner's Secretary of Education, and she headed the 25-member commission he tasked with finding a way to make Illinois' school funding more equitable. After six months of meetings, the bipartisan panel adjourned yesterday releasing a report meant to guide lawmakers toward drafting a reform measure. Shortly after that final meeting, Purvis talked to me about the novel test she used with the commission, and why the panel stopped short of endorsing a specific plan.

Without MAP, Students Have Nowhere To Go

The ongoing state budget impasse, now in its second year, has been particularly tough for low-income college students who rely on the state's Monetary Award Program — known as the MAP grant — to help cover tuition. The state has delivered only a fraction of the money promised for those grants, and schools have had to choose between covering the grants using their own reserves or billing the students. The latter choice leaves campus financial aid officers with the task of breaking the bad news to students. We asked Sue Swisher, executive director of financial aid at St. Xavier University in Chicago, to tell us how those conversations go.

Education Desk: Biss Brings Pensions Into Ed Funding Debate

The last time the General Assembly tried to make school funding more equitable across Illinois, the legislation got derailed largely due to a fight over teacher pensions. Now pensions have cropped up again, this time in a bipartisan commission working to overhaul the school funding formula.

Education Desk: McConnaughay Sees Signals Of Compromise

For the past 20 years, school funding in Illinois has relied heavily on property taxes, which means schools near prime commercial or residential areas thrive, while others struggle to get by. Since August, a bi-partisan, bi-cameral group of lawmakers has been meeting regularly to try to come up with a better way to fund public schools. Last week, after four days of legislative sessions ended, most of the 20 lawmakers appointed to the Illinois School Funding Reform Commission hung around Springfield just for this meeting. It took place in a stuffy teleconference room, and lasted three solid hours, with no breaks. But even after the meeting adjourned, Senators Karen McConnaughay and Andy Manar lingered, continuing their discussion. She's a Republican representing several upscale suburbs of Chicago; he's a Democrat from the tiny town of Bunker Hill. Could this be a sign that on this issue, lawmakers from different worlds are trying to pull together?

Education Desk: Community Colleges Get Emergency Aid

The state's ongoing budget impasse has hit community colleges particularly hard, with funds to these schools and the students who attend them drastically reduced. The Illinois Community College Board is distributing $3 million in emergency aid, divided among seven campuses.

Education Desk: Manar Loses Patience With School Funding Commission

More than any other state in the country, Illinois relies on property taxes to fund public schools. As a result, districts in prosperous areas can spend a lot more per student than districts in low-income or rural areas. A group of lawmakers charged with revamping this scheme has been meeting since summer, facing a deadline of February first. But the group isn't moving fast enough for State Senator Andy Manar . He's the leading Democrat on the commission. He's also considering running for governor.

Education Desk: Robbing Peter To Pay Tuition

The ongoing budget impasse means that state funding for colleges and universities will run out Dec. 31. While some schools are fronting the money for students who get state assistance, a recent survey found that others are scooping up students' federal financial aid to fill in the gap. It's a little bit like opening your child's birthday card from grandma, and pocketing the cash.

Education Desk: The Rookie - Part I

The first year of teaching is a little bit like jumping into the ocean. You can practice in a swimming pool and pretend you're in the ocean. You can sit on a boat and watch other people dive in. But until you do it yourself, there's no way to know how the waves are going to feel or how you'll fend off the jellyfish and sharks. Jeniece Baines is one of those brand new teachers. She teaches reading and writing to 7th graders at Franklin Middle School in Champaign.

Education Desk: Midnight Breakfast Is Food For The Soul

For college students, December means cramming for final exams. Some schools try to help students keep studying by serving midnight breakfast in the dining halls. But at the University of Illinois, one student group puts their own twist on that tradition.

Education Desk: Dual Language Draws Wait List In Urbana

Students struggling to learn English have traditionally been regarded as a bit of a challenge in your standard public school. But in Urbana, these kids are valued for their ability to help their English-speaking peers learn a second language. It's done using mixed classrooms where the teachers speak only Spanish for as much as 90 percent of the day. That percentage ramps down as the kids get older. In the earliest grades, the English-speaking students may not even realize that they're soaking up a new language.

Education Desk: Remembering Patrick Dolan

Patrick Dolan played a major role in shaping the relationship between public school teachers unions and administrators in school districts across the nation, and especially in Illinois. But if you've never heard of Patrick Dolan, don't feel bad. Dolan did his work mainly behind the scenes, in meetings with teachers unions and school administrators. What made him remarkable was that he created peace between these often adversarial parties.

Education Desk: Maine Fishes For Future Flagship Students In Illinois

Illinois has long been number two in the nation for a rather dubious distinction — the net out-migration of college students. Now there's a new program targeting Illinois high school students who want to attend a state flagship university, even if it's not in Illinois. The catch? You're going to need to love flannel shirts, lobster, and maybe not come home for Thanksgiving.

Education Desk: Maine Fishes For Future Flagship Students In Illinois

Education Desk: Undocumented Students Push For Access

College students who don't have a Social Security number can't receive financial aid from public universities in Illinois. But a measure that would give schools the option to provide scholarships or waivers is getting a big push at the statehouse, thanks to the election of Donald Trump.

Education Desk: How Can High-Poverty Schools Succeed?

If there's one thing that most educators agree on, it's that a school full of low-income students requires teachers to bring their A game if they want to close the achievement gap. But after years of studying high-poverty schools that succeed, Lynne Haeffele has come up with a short list of traits those successful schools share. Haefele directs the Center for the Study of Education Policy at Illinois State University, and she will be speaking tonight at a townhall-style event in Decatur. Haeffele has been studying "break the mold" schools — high poverty, high performing schools — to discover their magic formula.