Illinois Public Schools Rank 11th Nationally

Illinois’s public schools face a lot of challenges—inequitable funding, underfunding by the state, and more. But a recent report released by WalletHub indicates when it comes to a broad measure of how public schools are doing, Illinois does better than most.

The report didn’t focus solely on school funding or academic outcomes, but aggregated two broad measures—quality and safety. The quality measure accounted for 60% of a state’s score and included items such as (3 points each, unless * indicated double weight):

  • Presence of public schools in “Top 700 Best US Schools”
  • High school graduation rate among low-income students
  • Dropout rate*
  • Math* and Reading* test scores
  • Median SAT* and ACT* scores
  • Share of 2016 high school class scoring “3” or higher on Advanced Placement (AP) tests*
  • Share of 2016 high school graduates who completed ACT and/or SAT*
  • Division of SAT and ACT results by percentile
  • Pupil-Teacher ratio
  • Share of licensed or certified K-12 teachers

For the safety measure, which accounted for 40% of the score, items included were (4 points each, unless * indicated double weight):

  • Share of threatened/injured high school students*
  • Share of high school students not attending school due to safety concerns
  • Share of high school students with access to illegal drugs
  • Share of high school students participating in violence
  • Share of armed high school students
  • Bullying incidence rate*
  • Disciplinary incidence rate
  • Youth incarceration rate

Using these measures, Illinois’s public schools ranked 9th in the nation in quality and 21st in safety, for an overall rank of 11th. Illinois tied Missouri for the highest median SAT score in the country, perhaps not too surprising given Illinois’s results from ACT testing in years past.

Photo © 2016 by Nick Youngson under Creative Commons license.

Tell Your Legislators to Override the SB1 Veto Today to Keep Our Schools Open

Today, Governor Rauner vetoed part of Senate Bill 1 (SB1), which would have fixed Illinois’s inequitable school funding formula. Key elements of Illinois PTA’s support of SB1 are that no school district receives less funding and that all school districts are treated in the same manner regarding current (but not legacy) pension costs. The governor’s veto breaks both of those requirements, puts education funding at risk, and means that some schools may not be able to open for the start of school or remain open for long.

The governor’s veto ends the district hold harmless provisions in the 2020-2021 school year, removes the minimum funding requirement, continues to treat Chicago Public Schools’ pensions differently than those of every other district, and eliminates the CPS block grant used to pay for special education, English language learners, and other “categorical” spending. The veto also eliminates the inflation indexing of formula values in the bill, meaning that districts will effective see funding cuts over time as inflation reduces the value of that funding.

The governor has called SB1 a “bailout” for Chicago Public Schools. It is not. 268 school districts, over 30%, will receive more funds per student than CPS. Downstate students make up about 34% of all Illinois students, and about 34% of the SB1 funding goes to downstate districts. CPS accounts for 19% of Illinois students, one-third of our low-income students, and receives about 20% of the SB1 funding.

SB1 now goes back to General Assembly for an override vote to restore SB1 to its original language or a concurrence vote to accept the governor’s changes. Either vote requires the support a supermajority (60%) of legislators in both houses. If neither the override or concurrence vote receives that supermajority, the bill is completely vetoed and schools will not receive funding until a new evidence-based funding model is passed by both houses and signed into law.

We have seen the damage done over the past two years without a state budget to our community colleges, our universities, and our social services. Let’s not cut off funding from our schools by playing students from one zip code against another to score political points. Let’s put SB1 into law.

Illinois PTA is issuing a call to action, requesting its members to contact their legislators to override the governor’s veto. Following this link will take you to a prewritten letter that you can edit or send as is to your state representative and state senator. It takes just a couple of minutes. Speak up for your child and every child in Illinois so we can fix our funding formula and keep our schools open.

Illinois PTA Urges Governor Rauner to Sign SB1

Illinois PTA president Brian Minsker spoke on Tuesday at a press conference in Decatur calling on Governor Rauner to sign Senate Bill 1 (SB1), a bill that would change Illinois’s school funding formula. His remarks are below, and you can view a video of the press conference courtesy of the Decatur Herald and Review (President Minsker’s remarks begin at 8:25). In addition, Illinois PTA encourages every PTA member to take a couple of minutes today contact Governor Rauner to urge him to sign SB1 using our ready-to-go letter.

Much of the news since the passage of a state budget has focused on the requirement of an evidence-based funding model in order for schools to receive funding this year. The need to keep our schools open for this school year, which for some has already begun, is certainly one reason to support SB1, the only evidence-based funding model that has passed both houses of the General Assembly.

But that budget requirement is not the primary reason that the Illinois PTA is urging the governor to sign SB1. Illinois PTA has long supported education funding that is adequate, equitable, and sustainable as part of our legislative platform. While our state remains far from meeting those three goals, SB1 is an important first step towards achieving them.

As a statewide association with PTAs in rural, suburban, and urban school districts, it was essential that no school district lose funding under an evidence-based model and that such protections last for more than a handful of years. SB1 provides just that, locking in current levels of funding as a foundation.

In Illinois, we currently spend a worst-in-the-nation $0.81 on a low-income student’s education for every $1.00 we spend on a non-low-income student. By determining the unique cost to educate a student in each Illinois school district, by measuring that against the district’s ability to raise its own funding, by treating every school district in Illinois the same in how current, but not legacy, pension costs are handled, and by providing more funding for districts the further they are from their target funding, SB1 begins the process of providing a more equitable distribution of funds throughout Illinois.

This approach is essential to guaranteeing that the quality of a child’s education does not depend on their zip code. Governor Rauner promised to fix our funding formula. His bipartisan commission recommended an evidence-based funding model, which SB1 now implements. The time has come for the governor to deliver on that promise and sign SB1.

We have spent the last two years without a budget, and we have seen the lasting damage that has been done to our community colleges, our universities, and our social services. Now that we finally have a budget, let’s not shift the political fight to our schools and our children, for that is what this fight is truly about. Do we move to provide every child in Illinois a quality education, or do we use our children, our future, as pawns to score political points? Governor Rauner, Illinois PTA urges you to sign SB1 for every Illinois child.

Parent Guides for the New Science Standards

You may be familiar with PTA’s Parents’ Guides to Student Success, which highlight what your child will be learning in Math and English/Language Arts from kindergarten through high school. During the 2016-2017 school year, Illinois required the use of its new science standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Now the NGSS developers have created a series of parent guides to help families support their child’s science education. The guides cover what students will be learning in the four key areas of physical sciences, life sciences, Earth and space sciences, and engineering design. The guides also give concrete examples of how the science students learn under the NGSS focus more on hands-on investigation and less on rote memorization. The guides are available for the following grades:

Check out the guide for your child’s grade level to learn more about what they will be learning in science and how you can help support them. Illinois families should also be aware that while the state conducted science assessments in both the spring of 2016 and 2017 for grades 5, 8, and 11, neither of those assessments have been scored due to the lack of a state budget. That means that families in Illinois have not seen how their student is doing in science since the ISAT science assessment given in spring 2014.