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Legislature approved school funding overhaul one year ago

BRIGHTON – Smaller class sizes, more support for at-risk students and 425 new laptop computers for students to use at school and at home are some of the positive changes that have taken place in the Southwestern School District because of the state’s new school funding formula.

State Senator Andy Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and the driving force behind last year’s passage of a new school funding formula, on Thursday toured three schools in Southwestern Community Unit School District 9.

It was the first in a series of school visits that Manar plans to make in the coming weeks to learn about changes school districts are making to benefit students and teachers as a result of more equitable state funding.

“The changes we’re hearing about in school districts like Southwestern are the result of the stability and certainty that the new school funding formula is offering to communities where schools have been underfunded for years,” Manar said. “We haven’t seen this level of change in downstate schools in decades. The energy and excitement I saw in classrooms Thursday is contagious and a welcome sight.”

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Accompanied by District 9 Superintendent Brad Skertich, Manar toured Brighton North Primary School, Southwestern High School in Piasa and Medora Intermediate School.

District 9 received an additional $129,432 under the new formula for the academic year that is getting under way. Added to last year’s additional funding, the new formula has resulted in more than $417,600 in additional money for Southwestern public schools in its first two years on the books.

Among the changes that have occurred in the district that are the result of school funding reform:

  • Brighton North has added a first-grade classroom – going from three sections to four – enabling it to offer first-graders smaller class sizes and more individual attention.
  • Two teacher aides have been added in grades K-6 to work with math students who need additional help.
  • 425 laptop computers were purchased so the district could roll out a 1:1 program to students in grades 5/6 and 9/10.
  • An in-school suspension room was added for older grades to help keep at-risk students in school.
  • A part-time counselor was hired to assist high school and middle school students. The counselor is shared with Staunton schools.
  • Five instructional coaches were added throughout the district to offer professional development for teachers who wish to learn new or better ways to incorporate technology into their teaching.
  • Expanded the assistant technology department from a part-time employee to a full-time employee to help support the students who are part of the 1:1 initiative.
  • Established a fifth- and sixth-grade STEM lab, allowing students and teachers to incorporate more science, technology and math into learning and projects.
  • Established a new high school Spanish curriculum.

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In addition, Southwestern High School was able to remodel its kitchen facility for the first time in the history of the school – built in 1956 – because the additional money being pumped into the district through the new formula enabled officials to free up other money for the remodeling project.

“The evidence-based funding formula has brought additional resources to the Southwestern School District that have been needed for nearly a decade,” said Skertich, who has been superintendent at Southwestern for nine years.

“The new resources have allowed the district to not only maintain, but expand the classes and programs offered to meet the individual needs of our students. In addition, we are excited to be transitioning to student-centered learning environment.”

“On behalf of the Southwestern School District, thank you, Senator Manar, for your tireless efforts to reform the school funding formula,” Skertich added.

The Illinois General Assembly approved the new school funding formula, known as the evidence-based model, on Aug. 29, 2017. It was signed into law Aug. 31, 2017.

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Manar complimented Skertich for being a steadfast champion for school funding reform at the state capitol and elsewhere in Illinois.

“We were able to overhaul the school funding formula because of Brad’s determination and that of other downstate superintendents who knew there had to be a better way,” Manar said. “The transformation taking place in Southwestern schools is a direct result of his hard work and his advocacy.”

UISCampusSPRINGFIELD – A new venture that will connect downtown and the nearby University of Illinois campus as part of a heralded statewide innovation network is an example of what’s possible when the state starts investing in its young people and their future, State Senator Andy Manar said today.

“Not only is this a step toward UIS having a more significant presence downtown – something local officials have discussed for years – it is the first of many incredible things to come for the capital city as a result of this project,” Manar said.

“I am pleased to have had role in making this a reality, and I look forward to watching the exciting changes that are about to unfold in Springfield.”

State, local and university officials are announcing this morning that the Innovate Springfield business incubator will become part of UIS, giving the university a significant downtown presence for the first time in its history.

In addition, UIS will become a hub of a statewide innovation network that is intended to connect universities and foster entrepreneurship in various fields. The network is a project of the University of Illinois-led Discovery Partners Institute, a center where faculty, students and companies will collaborate on research that leads to new products and businesses.

Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat who represents downtown Springfield in the state Senate, was instrumental in bringing the success of Innovate Springfield to the attention of University of Illinois leaders.

“This endeavor represents the same kind of resilience and can-do thinking that for 200 years has propelled Illinois to the top in agriculture, food sciences, computer technology, health care innovation and entrepreneurship,” said Manar, in a nod to the state’s bicentennial this year.

“Illinois can continue to blaze trails for the next 200 years, too. An earnest investment in our universities and colleges is an earnest investment in our young people, our workforce and our future.”

Teacher350SPRINGFIELD – State Senator Andy Manar said he is disappointed but not surprised by the governor’s veto Sunday of a plan to raise the minimum wage for Illinois teachers for the first time since 1980.

For nearly four decades, state statute has required Illinois school districts to pay teachers a minimum salary of about $10,000. Based on decades of inflation, the minimum mandated salary today should be about $32,000.

Manar (D-Bunker Hill), the Senate sponsor of the measure, noted that there are teachers throughout Illinois today who live at or below the federal poverty line, something he said he finds unconscionable given the professionalism and dedication required to educate children.

It was hoped that raising the minimum salary would help Illinois tackle an acute teacher shortage crisis by sending a message that the work teachers do is valued and attracting more young people to the profession.

“Refusing to guarantee professional educators a livable minimum wage is no way to lure more teachers to Illinois,” he said. “I’m disappointed in the governor’s veto, and I know thousands of dedicated, hard-working, creative educators throughout the state are, too.”

Under the measure (Senate Bill 2892), the state would update the minimum mandated salary for teachers annually for the next four years. After that, subject to review by the General Assembly, it would be increased according to the Consumer Price Index. The phase-in looks like this under the proposal:

  • $32,076 minimum for the 2019-2020 school year
  • $34,576 minimum for the 2020-2021 school year
  • $37,076 minimum for the 2021-2022 school year
  • $40,000 minimum for the 2022-2023 school year

It is unknown if the General Assembly will attempt to override the veto.

Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin said members of the organization, which backed the minimum wage bill, also are disappointed but unsurprised by the governor’s veto.

“The governor repeatedly says he’s a friend of education, but his actions tell us otherwise. Senator Manar’s legislation would have been the best way to combat the teacher shortage in Illinois. Studies show the most effective way to alleviate a teacher shortage crisis is through respect and adequate wages,” Griffin said.

“By vetoing this bill, the governor is disrespecting every teacher, student and community in Illinois. We are in the midst of a crisis the governor does not seem interested in fixing.”

2017ManarSrFair350SPRINGFIELD – Senior citizens from Christian and Macon counties can join State Senator Andy Manar next week for a pair of senior resource fairs featuring wellness checks, on-site driver’s license renewals, information about how to save money on utility bills and more.

The first event is Tuesday at Christian County Senior Citizens, 701 W. Adams St. in Taylorville. The second is Wednesday at the Decatur-Macon County Senior Center, 1430 N. 22nd St. in Decatur.

The fairs are free and open to the public. Seniors will be able to ask questions and obtain information from a variety of service and health care providers, state programs and local groups. They also can take advantage of free and discounted health screenings.

Additional details below about each event. For more information, call 217-782-0228 or 618-585-4848 or visit SenatorAndyManar.com.

Tuesday, Aug. 28, 10 a.m. to noon
Christian County Senior Citizens, 701 W. Adams St., Taylorville

  • Driver’s license and state ID renewals at the Illinois Secretary of State’s mobile unit
  • Health screenings and information from area medical providers
  • Updated information for seniors and veterans from the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Details about lowering utility bills from the Citizens Utility Board
  • Determine if the state is holding unclaimed property with the Illinois treasurer’s office
  • Additional representatives available from the Illinois comptroller, Quad County Home Health, Christian County Department of Public Health, Pana Community Hospital, Taylorville Memorial Hospital and more

Wednesday, Aug. 29, 10 a.m. to noon
Decatur-Macon County Senior Center, 1430 N. 22nd St., Decatur

  • Driver’s license and state ID renewals at the Illinois Secretary of State’s mobile unit
  • Health screenings and information from area medical providers
  • Updated information for seniors and veterans from the Illinois Secretary of State and the Illinois Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Details about lowering utility bills from the Citizens Utility Board
  • Determine if the state is holding unclaimed property with the Illinois treasurer’s office
  • Additional representatives available from Decatur Memorial Hospital, Dove Inc., Eagle Ridge, the Illinois comptroller, the Illinois Department on Aging, St. Mary’s Hospital and more
 

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