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Thomas Clatterbuck



The North Greene Bright Futures program is will be funded for the coming year. The program, which develops parenting skills in at-risk communities had struggled to get its grant funding renewed. Although the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) had $50 million for programming, it opened up grant applications to new programs. With the new competition, Bright Futures fell just short of the cutoff. They would not be funded after 2019.

But North Greene knew that their program had been the model for other early childhood education programs in the area. So when another $20 million was appropriated for programs, they appealed the initial decision. They also reached out to politicians including State Representative Davidsmeyer and Governor Rauner. The Rauners are strong supporters of early childhood education. First Lady Diana Rauner has been heavily involved with the “Ounce of Prevention Fund” for early learning.

The appeal and political support paid off, and the program has been fully funded for the coming year. Additionally, the grant is good for five years, so they will not need to apply again for some time. But with all state grants, money has to be appropriated in the budget for the programs to get the money.

What does Bright Futures do?

Bright Futures has spent more than 20 years developing parents as educators. 75 families are taught how to build a literacy rich environment for their newborns. The ages from birth to three are a foundational time for children, even though they might seem pre-literate. Young children benefit from being communicated with, be it reading or just talking. Early intervention and exposure to literacy is key for a child’s success in school and beyond.

The program also serves as a vital service hub in the North Greene community. Unlike in more urban areas, getting to service provides requires significant travel for rural residents. Not only are there fewer service providers, they are harder to locate for at-risk individuals. By having the Bright Future program, it is easier to direct residents to those services.

North Greene’s Superintendent Mark Scott came into the studio to talk about the importance of the program and the issues they had getting funding. You can watch our full discussion in the player.

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Senior strategist, statehouse reporter and political correspondent for Springfield Daily. Graduate of District 117 and UIS. Thomas covers stories in both Morgan and Sangamon Counties, as well as statewide politics.


LIVE | District 186 school board meeting January 22nd

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Follow along live with District 186’s school board meeting for January 22nd.

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Illinois educators wary of bill to require metal detectors in every school



image from the Sentinel-Echo

A group of Illinois lawmakers are promoting legislation that would use a combination of state, local and federal funds to put metal detectors in every school in the state, but some school leaders say it’s simply not feasible.

State Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, said students in schools should feel safe from gun violence when they’re learning. For that reason, the former teacher filed a bill that would require all public schools, K-12, have students walk through metal detectors everyday to get to class.

“Why is it that no one gets shot inside of Terminal 1 or Terminal 2 at O’Hare Airport?” he asked.

The bill would tap into federal funds made available this summer to partially pay for the walk-through detectors, which can cost thousands of dollars.

Regional Superintendent Mark Jontry, who oversees schools in DeWitt, Livingston, Logan and McLean Counties, said the idea is well-intentioned, but would result in a unfunded expenses for school districts and create logistical problems.

“Who’s going to be responsible for doing those screenings? Are districts going to be responsible for the cost of hiring additional personnel?” he said. “The concept, on the surface may seem like a good idea, but it presents a number of challenges once you dig into it.”

The detectors would have to be run by a trained professional and need regular servicing and calibration to ensure they work properly. Jontry said such costs would likely fall to local taxpayers.

Ben Schwarm, deputy director with the Illinois Association of School Boards, served on a working group with the Illinois Terrorism Task Force. The law enforcement contingent of the group had a hierarchy of actions that could be taken to “harden” schools from unwanted entry. Schwarm said metal detectors were last on that list.

“It’s just not that effective,” he said. “There’s a thousand things school districts should be doing before they get to that point.”

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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Illinois unveiling a new model of accountability to divvy up federal money for schools



Illinois’ education officials are set to unveil new metrics that will decide how much local school districts could receive in federal school improvement funds.

Using the new support and accountability model that’s planned to be released at the end of the month, schools that are struggling could receive $150,000 in Title I federal funds for school improvement, plus additional funds based on enrollment and state and local funding levels in the current school year. Some of those funds would have already been distributed earlier this year, officials said.

Rae Clementz, ISBE’s Director of Assessment and Accountability, said the new accountability and support metrics will provide insight for school officials and the public.

“It helps us depict a better, richer picture of the many ways in which schools are doing wonderful things,” she said.

Much of the new accountability and support model will be based on student data gleaned from PARCC, the acronym for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers. Officials said that, while the test was not going to be conducted, the content would still be delivered and used to measure growth via an Illinois assessment of readiness.

PARCC received criticism from parents and administrators alike for long periods of testing.

One statistic that’s going to be factored in is chronic absenteeism, which measures students missing class for any reason, not just truancy.

“Chronic absenteeism highlights students that may otherwise go unnoticed in average attendance,” Clementz said.

Absenteeism figures will be higher than chronic truancy, which only measures unexcused absences. In the 2015 school year, the most recent year for which data was available, 335,094 Illinois students missed at least 10 percent of their school days. This is what advocacy group Attendance Works classifies as “chronically absent.”

Patrick Payne, director of Data Strategies and Analytics with ISBE said there will also be new information on teacher quality released, measuring certain credentials and “the number of inexperienced teachers.”

The new measurements will not affect the state’s school funding formula that went into effect this year.

Article by Cole Lauterbach with Illinois News Network. For more INN News visit

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