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Thomas Clatterbuck

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Which nonprofits deserve city funds? That was the question the Jacksonville City Council grappled with at their meeting last night. The Jacksonville Promise Scholarship program had previously asked the city for $10,000. This scholarship is open to students who went to elementary and high school in the city, and who go on to study at one of the local colleges. Based on other “promise” programs, the goal is to keep local students local.

While no one on the council objected to the program, they had concerns about giving it city dollars for it. Many organizations ask the city for money. Without a set criteria for who gets money and who does not, it was feared that it would be impossible to tell other groups “no” in the future. However, promise programs have been successful in other areas, and there is research suggesting any dollars invested give a strong rate of return for the local government.

After lengthy discussion, the council approved $1,000 for the fund. This level is comparable to the Morgan County CEO program. Alderwoman Oldenettel’s suggestion that a criteria be set for funding request was also well received although no other action was taken on that idea.

Hosting the ITECS

The council also approved the proposal to host the State’s ITECS equipment. The Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System has a number of assets that they store around the state with local governments. This saves the state from having to store the equipment, while giving local governments access to and training on equipment they might otherwise not have access to.

ITECS stands for Illinois Transportable Emergency Communications System. This mobile communication array can be used to restore communications in situations when the main grid is offline. Because it is being stored in Jacksonville, the city would have first rights to the system in a larger emergency. Tentative plans say it will be housed at the new water plant.

In other city business, plans were discussed to remove the bridge at Brooklyn Avenue. The bridge has fallen into disrepair and poses a safety risk.

You can watch the workshop session in the player above, or the full chamber session below:

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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.

Education

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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Education

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

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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 ILnews.org

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

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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 ILnews.org

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