Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: January 16 – January 22, 2021

From anxiety to joy: Stories of Chicago’s contentious return to the classroom

By Yana Kunichoff for Chalkbeat Chicago

“After being closed to students for 300 days, Chicago reopened campuses this week and ushered in a new era of schooling with temperature checks, classroom pods, health screeners — and a continued standoff between city leadership and the teachers union. For some, reopening doors has caused them to fear for their safety. For others, it’s been a relief, injecting some normalcy into difficult times. Interviews with families and educators on the ground reveal a mix of emotions and experiences that are intensely personal and also framed by race, class, and the COVID-19 rates of various neighborhoods. Chalkbeat Chicago spoke to seven people at length about reopening school buildings this week for prekindergarten and some special education students who need extra support. Here’s what we learned.”


As Grown-Ups Argue Over Reopening Schools, Chicago’s Kids Lose

By Rob Samuelson for Education Post

“Given recent changes made by the Illinois State Senate, the CPS system is now potentially obligated to negotiate their reopening plans with the teachers unions representing their staff. This would be a change from 25 years of negotiations confined to only salary and benefits, not working conditions. Unknown as of this writing is when (or whether) these arguments over reopening will end for Chicago’s kids. But make no mistake, these arguments are interfering with kids’ learning, in person or digitally. No matter what they decide, they need to find ways to keep their kids learning, fed, and thriving. If it’s a renewed push for better digital learning tools and meal deliveries, so be it. If it’s better infrastructure improvements and PPE for faculty and staff, so be it. But the kids need to be learning one way or another.”


Illinois public schools awarded $2.2 billion in COVID-19 relief funding: Search our list for your district


“Illinois public schools have been awarded $2.2 billion in COVID-19 relief funding — more than four times the federal dollars the state received in the first round of pandemic aid for schools last spring, state education officials said. The U.S. Department of Education’s preliminary allocations for the second round of COVID-19 relief money for Illinois schools through the second Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund arrives as President-elect Joe Biden is pledging to reopen a majority of schools across the U.S. during his first 100 days in office. A handful of the 852 school districts in Illinois that are not eligible for Title 1 funding — which is based on a district’s percentage of low income students — will receive federal dollars from a “set-aside” of roughly 10% of the $2.2 billion, or roughly $63 per student, a spokeswoman for the Illinois State Board of Education said. While the state’s private schools are not included in this latest round of COVID-19 relief education funding under the federal CARES Act, they will be eligible to seek financial assistance through the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, ISBE officials said.”


Springfield, make the ban on ‘quiet rooms’ state law

By The Editorial Board for The Chicago Tribune

“There’s a simple prism with which to view the indefensible practice at some Illinois public schools of disciplining children by locking them up in “quiet rooms.” Imagine it was your son or daughter whose only transgression was talking back or not finishing classwork, forcibly confined in a locked, bare room for hours. Imagine how you would feel. The Illinois General Assembly took up this issue in legislation that would have banned the practice of locking up a student alone inside a seclusion room, or physically restraining them facedown. The bill was spawned by joint Tribune/ProPublica Illinois investigation in 2019 that revealed public schools across the state had been confining children with emotional or behavioral disabilities alone in small enclosures for classroom disciplinary reasons. Under current Illinois law, schools can put children in isolation only if those students pose a safety threat to themselves or others.”