The Illinois education system will soon have an array of tools to help draw in teachers and potentially turn the tide on the statewide teacher shortage, thanks to legislation co-sponsored by State Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria) that was signed into law today. Additionally, the state will be expanding a program aimed at tailoring education hours more toward actual student needs.
“We can’t offer our children a bright future if we don’t have enough teachers to educate them,” said State Senator Chuck Weaver (R-Peoria). “This new law will allow us to make major strides in attracting new teachers, retain existing teachers, as well as to help former teachers return to the classroom.”
House Bill 5627, a bipartisan initiative led by the Illinois State Board of Education, makes several changes aimed at combatting the current statewide teacher shortage. The legislation provides full reciprocity for out-of-state applicants seeking a Professional Educator License (PEL) to make it easier for teachers from other states to work in Illinois. The new law also clears up standards to ensure that a teacher with a PEL or an ELS (Educator License with Stipulations) does not need an additional Substitute Teaching License to substitute teach.
Also, a former teacher with a lapsed PEL due to failure to complete professional development requirements will be allowed to teach as a substitute. This is targeted towards teachers who have left the classroom and are interested in returning.
In addition, for five years, retired teachers will be able to return to the classroom for 120 days or 600 hours per school year without affecting their retirement status. During the same period, Short Term Substitute Teaching Licenses will be offered for qualifying applicants with an associate’s degree of 60 credit hours from a regionally accredited institution of higher learning.
“These are good, common-sense, bipartisan changes that will offer real help toward easing the teacher shortage,” said Senator Weaver. “This will not completely solve the problem, but it is an important step in the right direction. I look forward to continuing this work with my colleague to put together further, long-term solutions to end what has become a serious crisis in education.”
The legislation was signed into law on June 29th by Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner along with another education bill co-sponsored by Senator Weaver.
Senate Bill 2941 expands a state pilot program on competency-based graduation requirements. The program allows schools to base graduation requirements more on students’ knowledge and mastery of subjects than on the number of hours spent in the classroom. This allows schools to tailor instructional time to meet students’ needs and skills. The current program includes only grades 9-12, this expansion will allow schools serving all grade levels to take part.
“Competency-based graduation requirements allow us to focus more on the level and quality of a student’s education than the hours spent in a classroom,” said Senator Weaver. “Expanding this program will allow us to continue to explore how we can best serve students with varying needs and skillsets.”
Both bills take effect immediately.