Illinois education | St. Louis Public Radio

Illinois education

The minimum salary a teacher can be paid in Illinois will soon increase. Governor J.B. Pritzker joined educators and activists to sign a wage increase plan into law Thursday.


LA Johnson | NPR

Like many states, Illinois is facing a teacher shortage.

The Illinois State Board of Education estimates more than 2,000 positions remained vacant during the 2016-17 school year, including teaching, administrative and support staff.

Earlier this month, Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a slew of legislation intended to alleviate the state’s teacher shortage. But some teachers and union leaders doubt the measures are enough.

School Illustration
File | Illustration by Rici Hoffarth | St. Louis Public Radio

Third-grader students who live in low-income homes  underperformed their more well-off classmates by 50 percentage points in seven Illinois school districts in 2016, according to the advocacy organization Voices for Illinois Children. 

In its annual Kids Count report released last week, the group also noted that only 22 percent of Metro East third-grade students met expectations on the most recent state English test.

Students get ready for a violin class taught by Philip Tinge at Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis.
File photo | Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio

Sister Thea Bowman Catholic School in East St. Louis is one of hundreds of private schools in Illinois that could see a financial boost from the state’s new tax credit scholarship program.

More than 90 percent of the families who send their children to the school fall below the federal poverty line of $24,600 for a family of four. That gives them top priority to receive a scholarship.

Although children from low-income families get priority,  if Illinois follows the pattern of other states with similar programs, most of the tax credit scholarships will go to middle-class families.

The Illinois State Capitol.
J. Stephen Conn | Flickr

Even though the Illinois House overrode Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s budget veto Thursday — leading to a budget for the first time in more than two years — the state’s schools may still be in a pickle.

The language of the legislation could effectively block schools from getting state funding because, while it appropriates money, there’s currently no legal roadmap for doling out the money.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Oct. 10, 2013 - Many taxpayers have focused in recent weeks on the copper-plated doors newly installed at the Capitol. Critics rap them as exorbitant; preservationists and architects deem them appropriate for the grand, historic building and stress they should last for at least 30 years.

But what about barred doors that restrict opportunity and could diminish the Land of Lincoln during those decades? Mettle, not metal, should command our interest and energy.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 25, 2013 - The East St. Louis schools, in chronic financial straits, need $9 million to finish out the year and meet their payroll.

Despite the state’s tight financial situation, the Illinois legislature approved the money, leaving the final say up to the state board of education.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 7, 2013 - Missouri gets a D-minus and Illinois gets a D in a new nationwide education report card  issued Monday by StudentsFirst, the school reform group headed by former Washington, D.C., school chief Michelle Rhee.

But both states have plenty of company, even if their grades are nothing to brag about. Nearly 90 percent of states received a grade of C or below, with 11 getting an F. No state earned an A; the highest grade was a B-minus, for both Louisiana and Florida.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 29, 2010 - In a state with as gaping a budget hole as Illinois has, there is really only one issue in the November election -- or 13 billion of them, depending on how you look at it.

Commentary: Illinois takes one step for school reform

Jan 31, 2010

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 31, 2010 - Illinois' deadline dash to enact education reforms that could entice $500 million in "Race to the Top" federal funding was truly remarkable in this era of dysfunctional state government, but it took a toll on transparency.

The measure resolutely makes student growth a significant factor in evaluating the performance of teachers and administrators; yet, it bars disclosure of how specific educators fare with the elevated level of accountability. So, while many cheer the new law as moving Illinois "light years ahead," others chastise the darkness.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 20, 2010 - While applications from Missouri, Illinois and a few dozen other states were on their way to Washington Tuesday, vying for a share of more than $4 billion in education money, the White House announced plans to extend the Race to the Top sweepstakes into next year.

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 12, 2009 - Let's do it right this time. Quit tweaking. Focus accountability. Put Illinois governors clearly in charge of education at the state level.

It will require a leap of faith and a constitutional amendment.