Update: Veto Session, Education, First Responders

Second and final week of fall 2023 veto session.  
The Illinois House of Representatives will reconvene tomorrow in Springfield. The House Rules Committee met on Wednesday, November 1, to examine bills on the House agenda for assignment to the House floor or to committees. Numerous House committees have posted hearing notices for this week. 

Rep. Spain and many House Republicans are continuing the fight to keep the popular “Invest in Kids” scholarship program alive. This program, which provides indirect State assistance to those who donate money to Illinois private-school scholarship funds, is threatened by an imminent sunset deadline: the State tax credit that helps incentivize this program will expire on December 31, 2023. Compromise language to extend the program has been introduced, but the program’s future remains in doubt.

Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) releases annual report card on Illinois public schools
.  The report card, which included attendance data, student absenteeism data, and aggregated test score data for each individual Illinois school and school district, covered numbers generated through the end of the 2023 spring school term. This was the final term of the first full school year since the lifting of the substantial barriers to in-school classroom learning that had characterized the 2020-2022 COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown. 

During the pandemic, Illinois school attendance and test score performances showed substantial drops. The declines were especially pronounced among students from at-risk backgrounds who attend challenged Illinois public schools. This included, but was not limited to, students classified as “English learners.” The 2023 Report Card showed partial recoveries from the troughs notched during the pandemic, but full recoveries were not posted. While the headcounts of public-school students characterized as being “proficient” in English (relative to their grade/age group) rose 16% from the prior year, and the same “proficiency” classification was given in math to 4% more students than in 2022, these numbers remained below the numbers that had been achieved by Illinois public schools and their students in 2019, prior to the start of the pandemic.

Within the universe of Illinois students enrolled in public schools, Black students did better in these data set numbers in 2023 than in 2022. However, there are now many defined, separate identity groups of students enrolled in Illinois public schools, and not all groups of students are doing well in 2023. Furthermore, overall numbers show continued high numbers of students from many identity groups who are chronically absent from classrooms. Almost one-third of all Illinois public school students, 30%, missed more than 17 days of school last year. This is especially significant because when a student who is often absent returns to class, the student’s performance and behavior may create additional challenges for the student and classmates.

The ISBE has published the data from its Illinois Report Card in a manner that enables each individual school’s data to be reviewed. The 2023 Report Card was released on Monday, October 30.

Illinois State Police trooper seriously wounded during on-duty shooting.  ISP Trooper Dakotah Champman-Green performed a traffic stop on Tuesday, October 24 on a vehicle traveling in Springfield. The vehicle’s driver, Cristobal Santana, is alleged to have emerged from the vehicle and opened fire with a weapon, seriously wounding the trooper. Champman-Green suffered gunshot wounds, facial fractures, a skull fracture, and a brain bleed. Santana then fled the scene. When apprehended a few hours later, Santana was described as a suspect in the recent homicide of Adrianna Lopez of Chicago. Santana was described as an ex-boyfriend of Lopez. 

The traffic stop and shooting were recorded by Trooper Champman-Green’s dashcam. Santana has been charged with attempted murder of a police officer. Other related charges have also been filed. This week, the dashcam video was released to Illinois news outlets and the public.          

Illinois community college enrollment up in 2023.  The key spring 2023 data point was up by 7.2% over spring 2022 enrollment, showing continued recovery after the sharp signup declines in 2020-2021 that were associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. The finalized enrollment number for the Spring 2023 term was 249,836 students. This total represented the largest year-over-year enrollment gain in nearly 15 years. The numbers were published in the Spring 2023 Enrollment Report compiled by the Illinois Community College Board (ICCB).   

Enrollment numbers for the 2023 fall term are not yet finalized, but year-over-year enrollment growth was described as continuing upward at a comparable pace with the spring 2023 enrollment numbers. Enrollment increases were concentrated in skill-set areas classified as Career and Technical Education, up 10.4% in fall 2023 by preliminary count, and Vocational Skills Training, up 6.3% during the same period. Online enrollment declined but is still very strong in fall 2023, with almost half (42.3%) of all enrolled community college students signing up for at least one online course enjoyed through distance learning.