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As Congress and presidential candidates trade accusations over immigration reform, advocates and experts urge caution in spreading misinformation; Alabama takes new action IVF policy following controversial court decision; and central states urge caution with wildfires brewing.

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Congress reaches a deal to avoid a partial government shutdown again. Arizona Republicans want to ensure Trump remains on their state ballot and Senate Democrats reintroduce the John Lewis Voting Rights Act.

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Hard times could be ahead for rural school districts that spent federal pandemic money on teacher salaries, a former Oregon lumber community drafts a climate-action plan and West Virginians may soon buy raw milk from squeaky-clean cows.

Teachers' Group Seeks to Bolster Public Education in IL, US

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Tuesday, July 25, 2023   

A new campaign backed by public school educators aims to bolster public edu cation and student learning. The American Federation of Teachers' Real Solutions for Kids and Communities campaign seeks to improve a variety of areas where public schools are lagging. In Illinois and across the U.S., schools are still working to address learning loss from the pandemic. The latest data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show reading and math scores hit 1970s levels.

AFT President Randi Weingarten said reading is a cornerstone of this new campaign.

"Getting books into young people's hands, it's just a start," Weingarten explained. "The ability to read is a fundamental right and teaching children to read is the most fundamental responsibility of school."

Other elements of the campaign include hiring more support staff, provide more teacher resources, and making strides to improve youth mental health. A 2023 survey finds 92% of parents want to see schools provide mental health services for students. Illinois' 2024 budget allocated $50 million to expand mental health services for school-age children.

However, challenges lie ahead for public schools and students. House Republicans have proposed big changes to Title One programs that fund lower-income schools in the upcoming budget. U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona thinks politicians working to broaden parents' rights should shift their focus to more pressing educational needs.

"How about the parent's right to a well-resourced neighborhood school instead of seeing their tax dollars go to vouchers? How about the parent's right to make sure their children have fully staffed schools, with highly qualified teachers, not a cast of substitute teachers because their state has no problem with their teachers making less than $40,000 a year," Cardona said.

In 2017, Illinois lawmakers approved the Invest in Kids Act, a state income-tax credit to individuals or businesses who fund scholarships for low-income students to attend private schools. However, parent groups and taxpayers mounted a major campaign against the plan, and the General Assembly did not continue the program for the 2024 school year.

Disclosure: American Federation of Teachers contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, Health Issues, Livable Wages/Working Families, Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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