Light gray background. Stand for Children Illinois logo. Three silhouettes of adults standing behind the silhouette of a child reaching their hand to the sky on a dark blue background. Dark blue circle with an outline of a megaphone on the bottom left. The circle reads "Career and Technical Education". On the bottom right of the circle there are two cyan blocks reading "Advancing CTE in IL."

Illinois has undoubtedly made progress in career and technical education (CTE) over the last decade—both in expanding opportunities for students and in collecting disaggregated data to support equity. School leaders are clamoring for more CTE investment and it’s a win-win proposal: smart for students and their individual futures and a strategic investment for Illinois’ economy. Last year’s budget saw a $4.6 million increase to the program; however, if Illinois had kept pace with inflation, the CTE appropriation would be about $80 million instead of $48 million.

State Secondary CTE Appropriation line graph. X axis (time) 1999-2024. Y axis (appropriations) $10,000,000-90,000,000. The ISBE Appropriations line remains fairly constant over the years. In 1999 it is just above $40,000,000, and in 2024 it is just below $50,000,000. Adjusted for inflation, the appropriations would have been just under $80,000,000 in 2022.

But strengthening CTE is not just about more funding. It’s also about deliberate growth of programming in high-demand, high-skill, high-pay career areas, and equitable opportunities for students in every zip code. This report identifies four strategic policies to advance dual credit in Illinois:

  • Conduct a return-on-investment analysis.
  • Commit to sustainable funding.
  • Complete a capital needs assessment.
  • Provide CTE course parity.

We also hope this report is a helpful hub of CTE information – like historical budget information, funding allocation flowcharts, links to existing datasets, models from other states, exemplars from several school districts, and other pertinent resources related to Career and Technical Education, Workplace Learning, and Dual Credit.

Illinois state capitol

The final week of legislative session is a sprint. The General Assembly’s big focus is wrapping up the budget for the new fiscal year. There are plenty of priorities included, but we are focused on a few and wanted to flag them for you.

Of course, we are aiming to continue boosting Evidence-Based Funding yet again. We expect that number to land at $350 million in new funding but continue to urge the legislature to accelerate that investment to close the funding gap more quickly.

We’re also focused on these budget priorities. We hope you’ll join us and ask your legislators to support these issues in the FY24 budget!

  • $3.15 million to grow Dual Credit opportunities across the state and to expand equitable access to these life – and career! – changing courses. Let’s support their futures!
  • $3 million to support the Minority Teachers of Illinois scholarship program. This will help address the teacher shortage AND increase the gender and racial diversity in the teacher corps, something that’s especially important for students of color to see representation like that in their classrooms.

We’ve got our work cut out for us, friends. With your help, and the help of folks across the state, I’m confident we can make a positive impact for Illinois youth and families in the new budget.

We’re this close to comprehensive literacy legislation passing the Illinois House. This is the time of year when the Illinois legislature finishes up bills and increasingly turns its attention to the budget. So this blog is doing double duty…we need a pro-literacy bill AND a pro-literacy budget!

The facts are stark: about 40% of Illinois students can’t read at even a ‘basic’ level. Most states have acted recently to ensure literacy instruction is evidence-based. It’s time to add Illinois to the list. Urge your representative to support SB2243, soon to be voted on the House floor AND increase early childhood education funding in the budget!

Literacy is complex. It starts with spoken language and exposure to rich vocabulary, experiences to build background knowledge, reading books out loud and learning about concepts of print. (Early childhood programs are SO important for this!) It also requires strong foundational skills with explicit instruction so students can connect the letters on the page to the sounds of speech to the meaning of the words.

Illinois needs a literacy plan so that all students, regardless of where they live or their home language, have access to evidence-based literacy instruction. Working together, we can set more Illinois students on the path of lifelong reading.

We’re nearly there, friends. With your help, we’ll get this done.

Governor JB Pritzker delivered his Budget Address earlier today. Education is a big focus of his plan this year and he’s calling it “Smart Start” – a proposal that would boost early childhood funding by $250 million! That is a big deal. It means 20,000 more preschool slots, better pay for childcare workers, facilities funds, and a boost in early intervention and home visiting programs.

I’m celebrating that part! I’m less enthralled with the funding increase request for the Evidence-Based Funding Formula for K-12 schools, set at the so-called “Minimum Funding Level” – $350 million. Remember: when we passed this funding formula five years ago, Illinois schools were the least-equitably funded in the country. The formula is working and shrinking those equity gaps, but Illinois is still among the most inequitably funded states. It’s on us to urge our lawmakers to support a $550 million increase for Evidence-Based Funding in this year’s budget. Tell your legislators that this is the year for a $550 million formula increase.

At the rate of $350 million per year, it will be 2047 before we fully fund K-12 education.

We’ve got to speed that up. Without a significant infusion of funds, the kids who will benefit from a fully funded system haven’t even been born yet.

This budget proposal is overall quite strong. The Governor has clearly prioritized education. Going beyond the “minimum” to give another $550 million to Evidence-Based Funding will complete the package.

I hope you’ll join us in asking for a $550 million increase to the education formula.

“Don’t tell me what you value. Show me your budget, and I’ll tell you what you value.”

President Biden has said those words often over the years, noting the importance of what’s included in each budget. They reflect our priorities and what we truly value.

And now we urge Governor Pritzker to make his next budget proposal a true reflection of what Illinois values.

We value education.

We value students having the support they need.

We value educators.

We value safe schools.

We value all these things and more. To reach that goal – something we all truly value – we must accelerate the pace of funding for schools. Our kids are counting on us to stand up for them.

I hope you’ll join me and urge Gov. Pritzker to include accelerated new funding for Illinois classrooms. We simply cannot wait any longer.

This should be in the Governor’s budget proposal. Because, after all, this is something we all value.

When Illinois overhauled its school funding formula five years ago, it came with a goal to fully fund our schools within a decade. So…are we halfway there? Not even close! In fact, a million students still attend underfunded schools.

Most years, the state has gone along with the Minimum Funding Level – $350 million. At this rate, it will take until 2047 to reach full funding.

This year, advocates are saying “minimum” isn’t good enough for our kids. We need a path to adequacy, not a path to mediocrity.

The State Board of Education will vote on its budget recommendation on Wednesday and has the opportunity to join the chorus of voices pushing to go beyond the minimum. That’s not a sure thing, though. The board’s finance committee met and recommended you guessed it – the Minimum Funding Level. Tell the board: increase school funding by $550 million because the minimum isn’t good enough for Illinois students.

Funding reform created an equitable framework for new funding. Every new dollar helps close the equity gap between low-income and higher-income districts. But our investments to date aren’t moving the needle. Illinois schools are still among the most inequitably funded in the country.

It’s time to step up and invest $550 million more in Evidence-Based Funding, putting Illinois on a path to adequacy 10 years sooner.

Earlier today, members of the Illinois legislature took the oath of office for a new term as members of the General Assembly. On Monday, Governor JB Pritzker was sworn in for his second term as governor. I was there on Monday, along with my colleague Jessica, for the ceremony and the pomp and circumstance.

As our elected officials set their agenda and plan their ’23 goals, now is a great time for us to congratulate them and urge their support for our shared priorities.

I’m talking about common sense priorities like ensuring Illinois schools have the funding they need to give kids the education they deserve; providing evidence-based literacy instruction to boost our state’s sagging reading scores; working to ensure racial justice in the youth court system; and, working together to offer students expanded opportunities for advanced coursework.

Let’s congratulate our elected leaders on their inauguration and urge them to focus on issues that will make a positive difference for Illinois children and their families!

Thank you for standing with us as we start the new year. I look forward to everything we accomplish together this year.

Illinois has made great strides in the years since the Evidence-Based Funding formula became law. More dollars flow to Illinois classrooms, first going to the schools that need the most help. In fact, about $1.5 billion more state funding goes to schools each year since that change – a sign of progress and our collective impact!

That doesn’t mean we’re done; far from it. If we continue on the current pace of adding $350 million in new state funding each year, Illinois schools will not reach adequate funding for another two decades.

We can’t wait that long. A generation of Illinois students waits for us to act.

That’s why in next year’s State budget, we are urging lawmakers to include $550 million in new state funding for Illinois schools. The additional funding will close the gap between the haves and have nots about twice as quickly, helping ensure our schools have the resources they need to give children the education they deserve.

Stand with us and urge lawmakers to include $550 million in new funding for Illinois schools.

We are closing the funding gap and making progress, but we still have a ways to go. More than a million Illinois students attend districts funded at less than 75% of what they need.

Take action today and tell Springfield to prioritize $550 million in new Evidence-Based Funding for our schools in next year’s budget.

Governor Pritzker signed the budget this week, securing another $350 million for Evidence-Based Funding! Legislators adjourned early in the morning just under two weeks ago, bringing the spring 2022 legislative session to a close. Here’s a quick wrap-up on our priority issues and some next steps.

Expanding Access to Dual Credit: Both the Illinois House and Senate unanimously passed a bill to boost access to Dual Credit courses and give districts flexibility to launch and grow their own Dual Credit programs. If you haven’t already, take a moment to thank the legislators who led the way in the General Assembly.

Improving Literacy Outcomes: We’re collaborating with education advocates and our fellow members of the Illinois Early Literacy Coalition to improve the Right to Read Act so that it works for all students. We’ll be convening this summer with experts and leaders in the literacy field to ensure the bill is as strong as possible, with the goal of passing it later this year or next spring.

Growing CTE Collaboration and Access: House lawmakers approved a Resolution make access more equitable to Career and Technical Education (CTE) courses and to facilitate the partnerships needed for successful CTE programs to flourish. Join me and thank the lawmakers who made this House Resolution a priority.

Enacting Economic Security: In the fight for racial justice, Stand joined the Coalition to Make EIC Work, a group of dedicated organizations and advocates that fought to expand the Earned Income Credit. Lawmakers enacted a budget including a permanent expansion of the EIC, providing direct tax relief to more than 4.5 million working Illinois families. The Coalition will continue fighting to create a permanent Child Tax Credit.

Fighting for Youth Justice: The work with our partners in the Debt Free Justice Campaign continues as we grow our coalition and refine the bill to help make the most impact for Illinois youth and their families by eliminating juvenile court fees and fines. We know that creating a brighter future for us all includes ensuring our juvenile court system is just and fair for everyone, and aimed towards healing, youth development, and reducing recidivism.

Thank you for everything you did this spring to help ensure positive results for Illinois children and families. The work continues, and I know you’ll be there as we take those next steps soon.

Session is scheduled to wrap up on Friday, April 8. That gives us just a few short days to tell our legislative leaders to stand with Illinois students and educators and include $350 million in new funding for the Evidence-Based Funding formula.

Our advocacy over the past few years has made a difference – this year, nearly $1.5 billion more has flowed through the equitable formula than when the formula was first enacted in 2017. Most importantly, it prioritizes funding for the school districts that need it most.

Let’s close out this spring legislative session with another positive step toward closing the school funding gap. With one click, please join me in urging your legislators to support an additional $350 million in Evidence-Based Funding for our schools.