From Illinois Business Journal news services
SPRINGFIELD – Residents of Illinois who have been convicted of minor drug or sex offenses but have worked to turn their lives around may now have the opportunity to become educators in the state because of a new law sponsored by state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago.
The new law, proposed by the Illinois State Board of Education and Cabrini Green Legal Aid, to limit the types of convictions that would automatically disqualify individuals from employment within a school district, disqualify individuals from obtaining an educator’s license or result in revocation of an educator’s license.
House Bill 494 states that persons convicted of possession of less than 30 grams of cannabis as well as those convicted of misdemeanor public indecency and prostitution will not be automatically disqualified for school district employment or obtaining licensing. The legislation also allows convicted drug offenders who have turned their lives around to apply for employment and licensing after seven years without committing new offenses.
“Barring those who have made mistakes in their lives from gainful employment puts an undue burden on families and communities. By allowing those who have paid their debts to society a second chance, we are opening up opportunities to turn lives around and rebuild our communities,” Van Pelt said.
The measure was not without opposition, having passed 36-10 in the Senate and 66-47 in the House.
Among those against it were Sen Bill Haine and Rep. Dan Beiser, both Alton Democrats, and Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Lebanon Republican.
Among those for it were Reps. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, and Eddie Lee Jackson Sr., D-East St. Louis, and Sen. Jame Clayborne, D-Belleville.
The bill had been promoted by the State Board of Education, along with other community stakeholders, Van Pelt said.