Education Desk

Credit Dan LoGrasso / NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS

See the latest reports from NPR Illinois Education Desk reporter Dusty Rhodes. 

The NPR Illinois Education Desk is a community funded initiative to report on stories that impact you.  Stories on the state of education from K-12 to higher education written by Illinois and national journalists.

Funders include:

  • Anonymous Individual Donors
  • Community Foundation for the Land of Lincoln
  • Hope Institute for Children and Families
  • Horace Mann Company
  • HSHS St. John's Hospital
  • Illinois Education Association
  • Illinois Statewide School Management Alliance
  • Illinois State Board of Education
  • UIS College of Education & Human Services

Ways to Connect

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LEILA FADEL, HOST:

University of Illinois Springfield

Unionized faculty and staff at Illinois’ universities and colleges want their institutions to start almost entirely online this fall.

Public schools should delay reopening in coronavirus hot spots but should open fully if they want to receive tens of billions of dollars in new federal aid, President Trump said in a White House briefing.

At the news conference Thursday, Trump talked in more detail than he has in the past about the reopening of schools. He also announced new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on reopening schools.

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For American families with children, the pandemic has meant lost income, increased child care responsibilities, worry and stress. But a majority are not eager for schools to reopen this fall, given the health risk.

Vanessa Ince's daughter, Alexis, has a rare chromosomal abnormality and autism. Alexis has thrived at her public school in Wailuku, Hawaii, and loves spending time with her classmates.

Ince says when the COVID-19 pandemic closed her school in Wailuku, the effect on her daughter's well-being was "devastating."

"Alexis regressed so severely. She was previously, I would say, 95% potty trained and she started wetting herself." She also regressed in other areas, her mother says: She went back to crawling and stopped trying to use her communication device.

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The NAACP has become the latest organization to sue the Education Department over the distribution of more than $13 billion in federal aid intended for K-12 schools.

Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia is one of a growing number of K-12 school districts around the country deeming it too dangerous to teach students in person when classes restart this fall.

The school district — the state's largest — announced earlier this week that it would transition to all-virtual learning, reversing its previous plan to hold a mix of in-person and virtual classes.

Superintendent J. Alvin Wilbanks said the change came down to prioritizing safety – and that will guide any decision to revert to in-person learning.

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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we want to tell you about a remarkable young man named Rehan Staton. He's someone who knows a lot about getting knocked down and then getting right back up again.

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President Trump returned to the briefing room yesterday after quite a hiatus.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And he talked about the coronavirus pandemic a little differently than he has to date.

When Irem Ozturk got the email from Dickinson College in mid-June announcing "we intend to bring all students back to campus," she was elated. She's originally from Turkey, but after two years on campus, she's come to think of Carlisle, Pa., as home. "I was thrilled because I felt like I was returning back home, excited to see friends and faculty," she says. "I felt happy. I felt like I had something to look forward to."

That happiness lasted a little more than a month.

Despite impassioned pleas from attorneys, a Texas school district is refusing to change its grooming policy that led to the suspension of two Black students earlier this year.

Ann Levett's worst day as superintendent of Savannah-Chatham County Public School System wasn't March 26, the day Georgia's governor first closed schools, keeping Levett's more than 37,000 students home in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Her worst day came just a couple of weeks ago, Levett says, when she realized the infection numbers around Savannah were so high that she wasn't going to be able to reopen schools.

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After camouflaged federal agents arrested protesters on the streets of Portland, Ore., President Trump now says he may be sending more federal agents to other U.S. cities.

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Courtesy of Bradley Bourbonnais Community High School

The District 186 school board voted to open registration and ask parents if they want their children to return to the classroom a few days a week, while learning online the other days, or participate only online. 

Carter Staley/NPR illinois

With just a few weeks to go before some schools are set to begin their fall semester, the Illinois Federation of Teachers issued a recommendation on Monday that called for students to begin the academic year learning remotely.  It is part of a larger union statement on the new school year.  

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MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's a lot Andy Tu was looking forward to as a freshman at Claremont McKenna College, a small private college in California. He imagined having intellectual debates on the quad and meeting "highly motivated, open-minded friends." Coming from an environment that's "intolerant of unconventional ideas," he says he was looking forward to being able to express himself freely on campus. He'd even been daydreaming about learning how to surf.

But every morning he wakes up at home in Shanghai, he feels like that iconic American freshman year is slipping further and further away.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Friday released his plan for how schools should safely reopen amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, calling on Congress to pass a $30 billion emergency education package to support building upgrades and sanitation protocols ahead of students' return to onsite learning.

"The challenge facing our schools is unprecedented. President Trump has made it much worse. We had a window to get this right. And, Trump blew it," the Biden campaign said in a statement.

The NCAA released new guidelines on Thursday for colleges and universities looking to resume sports in the fall. The big message: The outlook is getting worse, not better.

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More than 75,000 cases of COVID-19 were reported in the U.S. yesterday - another record. Over the past month, we've said this a lot - another day, another record.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will not release a set of documents this week aimed at giving schools advice on how to reopen to students after coronavirus shutdowns, NPR has learned. Instead, the full set will be published before the end of the month, a CDC spokesperson says.

"These science and evidence-based resources and tools will provide additional information for administrators, teachers and staff, parents, caregivers and guardians, as together we work towards the public health-oriented goal of safely opening schools this fall," the spokesperson said.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that the city will provide free child care to 100,000 students when schools reopen in September.

Last week the city released its plan for children to return to public school classrooms one to three days a week, depending on each school's capacity for social distancing amid the coronavirus pandemic. Students will take classes remotely on the other days.

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AILSA CHANG, HOST:

Every summer, about 250 middle and high school students gather at the University of Michigan for the MPulse Summer Performing Arts Institutes. The lecture halls and stages on the Ann Arbor campus come alive with young musicians and dancers and the sounds of string instruments, percussion and student voices singing to the beat of contemporary Broadway.

For the second time in two months, the Trump administration has sided with the for-profit college industry over a key constituency: veterans. In May, the president vetoed a bipartisan bill promoting debt forgiveness for veterans who were defrauded by for-profit schools. Now, the Department of Veterans Affairs is allowing two repeat-offending schools access to GI Bill money.

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