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Simon pushes for dual credit incentives 

 
CARTERVILLE – April 4, 2014. Local school districts would receive new funding to encourage students to earn college credit while still in high school under legislation being pushed by Lt. Governor Sheila. Simon visited John A. Logan College on Friday to talk to students and promote the need to incentivize dual credit programs in Illinois.

“Dual credit programs help students get an important head start on college,” said Simon, the state’s point person on education reform. “This landmark measure can prepare students for college and set them on the path to good-paying jobs in growing fields. I am hopeful that the General Assembly will pass this important legislation quickly so it can begin helping Illinois schools and students.”

“Dual credit courses should be offered in all parts of the State so that middle class kids in rural areas can save money, avoid debt, and get the skills they need to enter the workforce," Manar said. “Its time for the State to better prioritize its resources in public education to help middle class and working families have access to the skills necessary to succeed in today's economy. Our ancient school funding formula should be changed to help rural school districts offer more opporunity to our kids.”

Earlier this year, a bipartisan State Senate committee, created by State Senator Andy Manar (D–Bunker Hill) and State Sen. David Luechtefeld (R-Okawville), issued a report acknowledging Illinois’ outdated school funding system and recommending changes be made to the system to better reflect student needs. On Wednesday, Manar, along with other Illinois Senate Democrats, introduced the School Funding Reform Act of 2014, a proposal to streamline the complicated funding system into one formula that would account for school districts’ funding needs while also encouraging the development of dual credit programs throughout the state.

A dual credit course is a college course taken by a high school student that earns both college and high school credits. This allows a student to get a jumpstart on a college credential or degree for free. Dual credit courses are vital for students in small, rural or low-income districts that do not have the resources to provide Advanced Placement or other specialized college-prep courses, Simon said.

"Dual credit programs help transition kids to college, reduce debt and shorten the amount of time to get a degree,” said Director of Dual Credit and Partnerships at John A. Logan College Vicky Turl.

In Illinois, data from the Illinois Community College Board shows that student participation in dual credit has increased from 11,809 students in 2001 to 87,571 in 2012. Locally, almost 35 percent of juniors and seniors are taking some type of dual credit class affiliated with John A. Logan College.

Still, not all high schools offer dual credit. Cost is a primary barrier. To offer a dual credit course on site, a high school must hire a teacher that has the equivalent accreditation as a college professor and provide the appropriate books and technology. Alternately, the high school can cover a student’s costs at a college campus.

Previously, Simon urged state leaders to overhaul the way schools are funded in Illinois during the final hearing of Manar’s education committee in January. Simon testified that the current formula was hurting rural and high-poverty districts and should be changed. Simon serves as the state's point person on education reform. In this capacity, Simon is working to increase the proportion of working-age adults with college degrees or certificates to 60 percent by 2025. As chair of the 25-member Governor's Rural Affairs Council, Simon is also working to improve the delivery of state services and education opportunities to rural Illinois.