Dusty Rhodes


Daisy Contreras / NPR Illinois

Gov. Bruce Rauner has boasted that fixing the woefully inequitable Illinois school-funding formula was his top accomplishment of the past year.

Flickr User Brent Hoard/ "ECU School of Education Class Room" (cc by 2.0)

For the past several years, Illinois has been losing more college students than any state except New Jersey. Last year, as higher education was starved by the state budget impasse, that trend continued.

Overall, undergraduate enrollment decreased by 2 percent, with even steeper drops at public universities and community colleges. 

Schools defying this trend include those focused on medical professions, such as City Colleges of Chicago's Malcolm X campus. Mark Potter, the provost, said its home in the medical district makes it more attractive.

Beginning this week, people and corporations donating up to $1.3 million for private school scholarships can get a 75 percent credit toward their state income tax. This was a controversial but bipartisan concept, adopted last summer to help forge a compromise in a big overhaul of Illinois' school funding plan.

Such programs have taken off in other states, but it’s off to a slower start here.

Flickr user Brent Hoard "ECU School of Education Class Room" (CC BY 2.0)

A new report from Advance Illinois shows the statewide teacher shortage is felt most acutely in districts with many low-income students. But it's also hitting rural and wealthier districts.

Williamsfield is a village halfway between Peoria and Galesburg, with fewer than 300 students. Superintendent Tim Farquer said he can't find teachers who meet state licensing requirements for every subject. Instead, he's filing paperwork seeking waivers.


School districts had a year to implement a state law that banned zero-tolerance policies and emphasized restorative justice practices. We check back in with five districts we visited  in the summer of 2016 to see how school discipline has changed.