Top Education Stories You Don’t Want to Miss: May 8 – May 14, 2021

Pritzker: Schools to get an extra $350 million ‘because our outlook has improved’

By Rachel Hinton for The Chicago Sun-Times

“Citing an improved outlook for the state’s finances, Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced Thursday that he’ll increase evidence-based funding for schools by $350 million, offering some “relief” to parents, students and educators for the year ahead after initially keeping education funding flat. While there are still “far too many who are struggling” in the state, Illinois’ fiscal outlook is “brighter than it was even three months ago,” Pritzker said at an unrelated news conference Thursday before announcing the additional funds. “Back in February, when faced with financial uncertainty to the state and the prospect of billions of federal dollars going directly to our schools, I presented a flat operational budget for the state, which was all we could afford,” Pritzker said. Pritzker went on to say that the state’s improved fiscal outlook doesn’t mean Illinois has handled its “structural budget problems,” and reiterated that he’s pushing for legislators to close some corporate tax loopholes and address corporate welfare that he said mostly benefits large international businesses.”

Chicago sets aggressive deadline for schools CEO hire, as more details emerge about search

By Mila Koumpilova for Chalkbeat

“Chicago will pay up to $70,000 for its national search to replace outgoing schools chief Janice Jackson on an aggressive timeline that aims to install a successor by Aug. 1. According to its contract, the district will pay its consultants, Illinois-based BWP & Associates, a fee of $45,000 and as much as $35,000 for expenses, which does not include the cost of advertising the position. The district engaged the firm in late April on the eve of Jackson’s announcement last week that she would step down after about three years at the district’s helm when her contract expires this summer. Mayor Lori Lightfoot last week promised an unprecedented level of public engagement and transparency in the process. Although she will make the final call on who lands the district’s top job, she said she will not make the decision “behind closed doors” as has been the case with CEO hires in recent years. The district’s contract suggests the public will get to weigh about the traits residents want to see in the next CEO — not necessarily about the frontrunners for the job.”

COVID-19 vaccines for kids 12 to 15 begin at Chicago city-run sites Thursday; no appointment needed

By Karen Ann Cullotta & Alice Yin for The Chicago Tribune

“Chicago’s city-operated COVID-19 vaccine sites will begin offering the Pfizer vaccine to kids 12 to 15 starting Thursday, Chicago public health officials said Tuesday while touting the two-dose shot as the strongest guarantee those children can safely celebrate the summer after a trying year of coronavirus-related closures. The expansion of eligibility to younger kids was prompted by a recent Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization in anticipation of full approval Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady said Tuesday. The vaccines will be available at all city sites, which already offer the Pfizer shots and will accept walk-ins for those 12 and older starting Thursday.”

Thousands of students with disabilities are set to ‘age out’ of school. After a pandemic year, they may get more time to prepare for what’s next.

By Kalyn Belsha for Chalkbeat Chicago

“This was supposed to be the year that Jake Smith got a lot of hands-on practice working and doing tasks on his own as he got ready for life after school. Jake has autism and Down syndrome and is in a life skills program at a high school in Harford County, Maryland. He is one of the thousands of young adults with disabilities in the U.S. who are over 18 but still in school — usually in publicly funded transitional programs that offer hands-on job training or time to learn life skills, like doing laundry or shopping for groceries. Just before the pandemic hit, Jake’s mother, Tracy Smith, was encouraged by the progress her son made getting to class on his own and learning to vacuum at his job at a local hospice. But when school went virtual and work stopped, a lot of plans went out the window. Monthly field trips to practice social interactions ended, and Jake’s in-person speech therapy moved to video chat. Through a screen, it was much harder to practice the kinds of social skills Jake needed to work on.”