Political Rewind: Half of Illinois High Schoolers Not Reading at Grade Level
It's always good to be caught up on state politics. Here's an easy guide to what happened this week.
Editor's Note: This article was created by aggregating news articles from Illinois Statehouse News that were written by various Illinois Statehouse News reporters.
Half of Illinois' high school students cannot read or solve math problems at grade level, but state school leaders are not blaming the students or teachers.
They are blaming the federal program No Child Left Behind, or NCLB.
Illinois State Superintendent Chris Koch and State Board of Education Chairman Gery Chico on Thursday unveiled the dismal results from last spring's standardized tests.
Under NCLB guidelines, 85 percent of students must be proficient in reading and math by 2011. The bar is raised to 100 percent by 2014. These same percentages apply to science for high-schoolers.
Students in third through eighth grades as well as 11th grade take standardized tests to measure their adequate yearly progress in reading, math and science.
This past year, about half of Illinois' 11th-graders, who take the Prairie State Achievement Exam, or PSAE, scored at or above the 85 percent benchmark:
- 51 percent in reading and math;
- 49 percent in science.
In all, 656 of Illinois’ 666 public high schools failed to meet NCLB requirements.
The board that oversees Illinois' troubled prepaid college tuition program is undergoing an overhaul with the nomination of new members.
State Rep. Jim Durkin, R-West Springs, an outspoken critic of how College Illinois! was marketed and its investments handled, was among the chorus of legislators calling on Gov. Pat Quinn to nominate new board members after the news of the weak fund emerged this spring.
“I am expecting the board … to provide recommendations to me, if there is a necessity to make changes in state law,” Durkin said.
The state Senate Executive Appointments Committee on Wednesday approved eight nominees for the new Illinois Student Assistance Commission, or ISAC, with no discussion at a hearing.
The nine-member ISAC advises on investment decisions. Before Quinn’s nominees can be official, the Senate must give its approval, which could happen as early as next week during the Legislature’s fall veto session.
Illinois taxpayers can voice their opinions on how the state should spend money on elementary and secondary education at five public hearings throughout the state. The Illinois State Board of Education, or ISBE, will hold its first hearing, beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday at its office here.
“Public feedback in the budget making process is extremely critical in these tough economic times, because it provides insight into local priorities and puts a face to the more than 2 million students served through state funds in Illinois public schools,” James Baumann, Finance and Audit Committee chairman for the board, said in a written statement.
School funding in Illinois is generally set up so local tax money makes up 55 percent of a school’s budget, state funding accounts for 35 percent and federal funds make up the remaining 15 percent.
Part of the discussion Wednesday will involve who pays what.
Gov. Pat Quinn’s Education Funding Advisory Board, or EFAB is recommending that the state raise its level of funding by $4 billion next fiscal year.
EFAB said its suggestion could be accomplished by raising the foundation level per student from $6,119 to $8,360 and offering more money to schools in areas with high poverty rates.
Danville Mayor Scott Eisenhauer has been waiting six years to hear an Illinois governor say his city of more than 32,000 residents should get a casino. On Monday, "to hear that Gov. (Pat) Quinn, too, supports a casino for Danville is a milestone," Eisenhauer said.
But Eisenhauer realizes that while Quinn supports a casino for Danville, Quinn also could not support legislation that actually would put one there.
"We cannot have the massive expansion of gambling included in this bill," Quinn said.
Legislation passed in the spring session would have opened five new casinos, one each in Chicago, suburban Cook County, Lake County, Danville and Rockford.
The plan also would have allowed horse race track owners to install slot machines at their tracks, and added more tables, slot machines and other games at Illinois' 11 current riverboat casinos.
"I think that's too much," the governor said during a news conference in Chicago.
Quinn wants just the five casinos, and more authority given to the Illinois Gaming Board to oversee them. The Gaming Board regulates riverboat gaming now.
Illinois’ two largest utility providers have given $116,400 to the campaign warchests of lawmakers just weeks before the Legislature is expected to address a contentious rate-hike veto.
Under this proposal, Commonwealth Edison Co. customers would have seen their bill jump by $36 a year and Ameren customers by $40 more annually.
The General Assembly likely will take up the measure when it returns here Oct. 25 during the fall veto session.