SCHOOLS NOT MEETING FEDERAL STANDARDS
The state’s annual School Report Card, released October 31, shows that despite increased per-pupil spending, Illinois schools continue to fail to meet federal standards for “Adequate Yearly Progress” designated in the No Child Left Behind Act.
Although the state continues to increase per-student spending, many Illinois schools once again to failed to meet federal standards for “Adequate Yearly Progress” set out in the No Child Left Behind Act.
The reasons behind the statistics are complex, according to education experts, and may say more about the challenges of educating some students than about the overall state of education in Illinois.
The Illinois State Board of Education’s annual School Report Card provides ammunition for all sides in the education debate.
In the latest report, 66 percent of Illinois primary and secondary schools failed to make adequate yearly progress. Looking only at Illinois high schools, however, that number climbed to 98 percent. In addition, about half of all high school juniors in the state failed the Prairie State Achievement Examination. On the other hand, more than 80 percent of grade school students passed the Illinois Standards Achievement Test.
At the same time, per-pupil spending averaged $11,664 statewide for the 2010-2011 school year, an increase of more than $2,000 since 2007. Average teacher salaries were $66,616, while the average administrator was paid $110,870.
Some critics point to the apparent disconnect between the cost of education and the results. Even education officials have said there is no clear link between spending and student success. “There is really not a direct correlation between spending and achievement,” former State School Superintendent Glenn “Max” McGee told the Chicago Tribune.
The ongoing debate over test scores and school evaluations has led the state to move toward new standards. Beginning next year, the Illinois State Report Cards will be revised with new standards. The state is also seeking a federal waiver from some of the requirements of the No Child Left Behind Act.
For information on how school districts performed, the School Report Cards are available on the Illinois State Board of Education Web site.
FACILITY CLOSURES BOOSTED BY COURT RULING
Governor Pat Quinn’s fight to close a number of state facilities was recently bolstered by an arbitrator’s ruling, which found that the Quinn Administration has taken reasonable steps to work with union workers on closing the facilities, and should be allowed to proceed with shuttering the facilities.
In addition, a state board charged with reviewing healthcare facilities, gave the green light to the Governor’s plan to close the Jacksonville Developmental Center, which has been home for many years to persons with developmental disabilities.
Though the arbitrator noted that “the ideal solution” would be to keep the facilities open, he ruled the prison closures would not present a “clear and present danger” to facility employees. However, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) questioned the arbitrator’s determination. The union has long contended that the state’s correctional system is vastly over-crowded, arguing that closing and consolidating facilities will make circumstances more dangerous for prison employees.
In response, AFSCME has asked an Alexander County judge to retain the current injunction prohibiting closures. AFSCME is also asking the judge to vacate the arbitrator’s opinion, contending state law requires employers to provide a safe work environment. A recent Associated Press investigation revealed that the state had eased security rules for prison transfers, despite promises from the administration that no changes in procedures or policies would take place.
Spurred by the ruling, the Quinn Administration also turned to the courts, requesting a Cook County judge lift the order to allow the state to move forward with the long-sought closures. It is not known how quickly the judges will respond to these requests.
In a separate action, the Illinois Health Facilities and Services Review Board, which is appointed by the Governor, voted 6-1 to allow the Quinn Administration to proceed with closing the Jacksonville Developmental Center as early as November 21.
FEDS APPROVE COOK COUNTY MEDICAID EXPANSION
Late last week, the Obama Administration approved a controversial federal waiver that will allow Cook County to begin enrolling persons early in the expanded Medicaid program under the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare).
The early implementation of the Medicaid expansion was authorized by House Bill 5007, which passed the Illinois General Assembly on a largely partisan roll call in May. Most Republicans voted against the expansion, which is expected to add between 100,000 and 250,000 adults to Medicaid.
Opponents argued that, given the soaring costs of the existing program and the decision to reduce benefits for many senior citizens, children and chronically ill individuals already on Medicaid, it was wrong to add thousands of childless adults to the Medicaid rolls.
Cook County sought the expansion, saying that the affected individuals were already receiving medical care though emergency rooms and free clinics and that the waiver would save the county as much as $100 million by forcing the federal government to help pick up the tab.