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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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New Illinois law requires high school students to apply for college aid before graduation

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In addition to math, science, reading, and gym class, Illinois high school students will soon have a financial aid requirement to graduate high school.

Every high school senior in the state of Illinois will have to apply for federal student aid before they can graduate.

Lawmakers approved the new law last week. Gov. J.B. Pritzker says he will sign it.

Under the plan, high schools in the state will be required to have seniors fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, and if eligible a state student aid application as well.

State Rep. Katie Stuart says it will be easy for schools and kids, and could help some students get into college.

“This initiative will connect more students to the resources that are already available to help them get education or training after high school,” Stuart said. “But it’s flexible enough that we are not putting up any new barriers to graduation.”

Not all lawmakers are happy about the idea.

Opponents say there’s always a cost when the state requires local schools to do anything. And there’s a question about why all high school seniors need to fill out a FAFSA application.

But state Rep. Mary Flowers, who voted for the plan, said the requirement is aimed at the students who need extra help.

“You assume that all schools have the necessary counselors to take the time to educate the students, as well as the parents, about college and/or other programs,” Flowers told opponents of the plan.

Pritzker says the idea is critical for the state’s schools. He says he looks forward to signing the new law.

Once he does, the requirement will start in the 2020-2021 school year.

 

Article by Benjamin Yount with The Center Square. For more TCS visit https://www.thecentersquare.com/illinois

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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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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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