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Threatening to close schools may hamper teacher recruitment

Thomas Clatterbuck

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There has been much ado about why schools in Central Illinois are having difficulty filling new job vacancies. With one in five teaching positions going unfilled, the shortage has become a crisis. Other commentators have correctly identified the grueling certification process to become a teacher as a significant issue. But there is a much more obvious reason few from outside the area want to move here to become teachers: the “going out of business” sign districts hung up this summer.

No one needs be reminded of how disastrous the budget impasse was for the state. Any organization that relied on state funding was put in a very difficult position financially, including most public school districts. By the summer of 2017, even District 186 was threatening to close. Superintendent Gill said that without a budget deal, 186 would be out of money before the end of the year. And 186 wasn’t the only district in dire straits.

There was an eleventh-hour budget deal with staved off an immediate collapse, but only barely. The state budget was still wildly out of balance, and our bill backlog is measured in billions of dollars. Public pensions, including those for teachers, are underfunded by an additional $130 billion. Passing a new funding formula was a good start, but new promises ring hollow when the bills aren’t being paid.

None of the factors that led to these schools almost shutting down have been fixed. The state has the same money problems now that it had in 2015, only worse. Even without a battle of wills between the governor and speaker, the odds are good that another budget crisis is just around the corner. When spending continuously outstrips revenue, budget problems are inevitable.

All of which leads to the most basic question: who would want a job from an employer who might shut down next year? Why would a professional ever choose a job at a business that cannot ensure basic levels of job security? This is not the fault of the local districts; conditions largely beyond their control will determine if they can open or not. But the fact that it isn’t their fault is little consolation. Until the state can ensure that these school districts will actually be able to open every year, they will continue to have recruitment issues.

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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.

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LIVE | District 186 school board meeting January 22nd

Staff Contributor

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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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