Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: February 13th – February 19th, 2021

Pritzker’s proposed budget keeps Illinois school funding flat for a second year

By Samantha Smylie for Chalkbeat Chicago

“Illinois will not increase its budget for education for a second year despite advocates’ concerns that a stagnant budget could make it difficult to address lost learning due to the coronavirus pandemic. Facing down a $3 billion budget deficit, Gov. J.B. Pritzker laid out plans Wednesday for a 2022 state operating budget of $41.7 billion that does not increase taxes for residents but relies on hiring freezes and the closure of a series of corporate tax loopholes. The state’s education budget for kindergarten to 12th grade will remain stagnant at almost $9 billion with no increase to the evidence-based funding formula. The budget plan keeps funding for early learning and higher education mostly flat, too, but the governor outlined Wednesday some modest increases to the Monetary Award Program, or MAP, that provides grants for low-income college students.”


Illinois sees bigger than expected drop in K-12 student enrollment this year

By Samantha Smylie for Chalkbeat

“The Illinois State Board of Education said Thursday during a monthly board meeting that student enrollment dropped by an estimated 35,822 students, or 1.9%, this year. Stacey Rupolo/Chalkbeat

During an unusual school year, Illinois public schools saw student enrollment drop in greater numbers than expected, according to recent projections by the state board of education. The state said Thursday during a monthly board meeting that an estimated 35,822 students, or 1.9%, left public schools this year, exceeding a projected drop of about 20,000 students, or about 1.1%. Between 2015 and 2020, Illinois schools have seen enrollment drop an average of 1% per year, the board said. Many states have reported enrollment losses during the pandemic, even those that typically see a boost every year. A fall analysis by Chalkbeat and the Associated Press looked at kindergarten to 12th grade enrollment data from 33 states that showed that school districts lost 500,000 students, or about 2%, since the same time last year. Chicago Public Schools announced an enrollment decline of about 4% in October — the sharpest enrollment decline in two decades. Across the state, kindergarten through third grade enrollment saw significant declines, while middle schools and high schools saw modest or low declines. Kindergarten enrollment declined by 7.8%, first grade by 4.6%, and second and third grades by more than 3%.”


Chicago has a deal with teachers. How long can the peace last?

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat

“One week after Chicago struck a fragile peace with its teachers union, fault lines have emerged over who gets to work from home, for how long, and why. That’s because the hard-won contract between the city and the union appears to still leave some key matters open to interpretation. Among those issues: whether teachers have to report to school buildings if their students choose to continue learning remotely. How district officials and union leaders work through a new spate of complications — and whether they can reach an agreement to reopen high schools — will be closely watched as Chicago tries to mend wounds from a reopening battle that captured national attention and split school communities. Officials have said they fear that lingering acrimony will drive families away from a district that reported worrisome enrollment losses already this year.”


As Younger CPS Students Return To School, Some High School Families Say ‘What About Us?’

By Susie An for WBEZ

“As Chicago Public Schools students began returning to classrooms this week, high schoolers across the city were still at home, with no immediate return day in sight. And for some, like Teresa Hayes’ youngest daughter, remote learning just isn’t cutting it. “She’s stuck in her room at a desk for a really long time,” Hayes said. “She really is lacking motivation because she really responded well to adults that would nudge her.” In-person learning is underway in CPS buildings now that the district and teachers union came to an agreement, but it’s only for younger students. Students in pre-K and some special education students returned this week, and elementary students can return in March. Now, parents like Hayes are wondering when high school students will be able to return. Academic performance and mental health are major concerns. Schools CEO Janice Jackson says she wants high schoolers back as soon as possible, but it’s a more complicated process. Jackson said it’s the next point of discussion with the Chicago Teachers Union.”