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Governor signs bills to ease Illinois teacher shortage, address workforce readiness

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Bruce Rauner on Friday signed education legislation to ease Illinois’ acute teacher shortage and expand a successful pilot program to allow high school graduation based on mastery of skills.

illinoisealWith the signing of HB5627, the governor changed licensure requirements to make it easier for out-of-state, retired and substitute teachers to get certified to teach in Illinois. The new law is designed to address a growing shortage of teachers in the state.

He also signed legislation that makes it possible for teachers to advance students based on competency rather than traditional “seat time.” The shift in focus is designed to reframe the high school experience to be more responsive to real world college and career demands. SB2941 broadens the application of the Postsecondary Workforce Readiness Act (PWR Act) which Gov. Rauner signed in July 2016.

Teacher shortage in Illinois

One in five Illinois teaching positions went unfilled in large measure because of licensure requirements that serve to shrink the pool of available teachers and substitutes. By signing HB5627, the governor eases requirements so more qualified teachers become available to Illinois schools.

“We cannot deliver great education without great teachers,” said Gov. Rauner. “A majority of our school districts are reporting shortages, and it is unacceptable. Modernizing our licensing systems is a strong first step to that ought to help schools attract high-quality, transformative teachers for our students.”

HB5627 passed with bipartisan support and furthers the administration’s education agenda by addressing a shortage that is reaching crisis proportions in the nation and in Illinois. The legislation hopes to bolster the teacher pipeline in the state by:
• Creating a “Short Term Substitute Teaching License” so people with either an associate degree or 60 hours of college credit can substitute teach.
• Providing reciprocity for comparable and valid educator licenses from other states to increase Illinois access to educator talent from across the country.
• Allowing teachers with lapsed Professional Educator’s Licenses to qualify for a substitute teaching license.
• Increasing to 120 the number of days that retired teachers can substitute teach without jeopardizing retirement benefits.
“It is a great time to be a teacher in Illinois,” said State Superintendent of Education Tony Smith, Ph.D. “We are committed to ensuring every teacher in every classroom has the resources and support they need to help each child thrive. Allowing for out-of-state reciprocity creates the opportunity for Illinois to welcome additional excellent teachers into our schools. The creation of the short-term substitute teacher license provides an essential tool for districts. We look forward to our schools filling critical vacancies and providing all students the rigorous and well-rounded education they deserve.”

According to a 2017 Teacher Shortage Survey developed by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools and analyzed by Goshen Education Consulting, 78 percent of the districts surveyed identified either a minor or serious problem with teacher shortages. Over half (53 percent) of the surveyed districts indicated that they have a serious problem with substitute teacher shortages.

“We can’t offer our children a bright future if we don’t have enough teachers to educate them. 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,” said State Senator Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria.

“Teacher shortages lead to strained resources, large class sizes and impaired learning experiences for our children,” said state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood. “This new approach will help us recruit qualified educators who want to work in our communities. It is important that we encourage new educators by implementing common sense reforms, cutting red tape and making the licensure process reasonable and fair.”

“I am pleased that Gov. Rauner has signed HB5627 to address our teacher shortage. As the Minority Spokesman on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’m particularly pleased that this will benefit our military families,” said state Sen. Paul Schimpf, R-Waterloo.

“We have classrooms that have gone dark all over the state because school districts simply cannot hire all the teachers they need,” said state Sen. Andy Manar, D-Bunker Hill. “This law cuts red tape and eliminates some of the barriers to teaching in Illinois – all of which should help us solve this problem.”

“We have a statewide teacher shortage and this measure will help address it by making it easier to substitute teach. Readily-available substitute teachers give full-time educators a support system when they are sick or need time off. Most importantly, this measure helps our schools provide the best educational experience for our children,” said state Senator Kimberly A. Lightford, D-Maywood.

“With the shortage of teachers we have seen in recent years in our state it is important that we focus on making the process more efficient for young people who want to be educators. By having these important measures signed into law, the number of unnecessary barriers to becoming an educator will be reduced and we should see an influx of teachers to schools in our state,” said State Representative Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan). “Our state’s future depends on the ability to teach and retain the youth as a skilled workforce, and that isn’t possible without the hard work and dedication of good teachers.”

Workforce readiness goals

One of the hallmarks of the 2016 PWR Act was the development of a pilot aimed at using competency-based requirements for high school graduation. The pilot gave districts the flexibility to explore competency-based education in lieu of traditional “seat-time” requirements. The shift allows districts to better serve the individual needs of students.

SB2941 opens the pilot to more districts that qualify and to all schools in the district, not just those serving grades 9-12.

“This legislation builds on forward-thinking that was part of the PWR Act and helps ensure that all students have learning opportunities that meet their individual needs,” said Rauner. “As a result, many more of our students will be ready for college or work when they have completed their secondary studies.”

“Competency-based education recognizes that it’s the skills learned, not the time spent sitting in class, that prepares students for the workforce, the military and college,” said state Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill. “That’s why I’m pleased my bipartisan expansion of the Postsecondary and Workforce Ready Act has been signed into law by the Governor. This measure makes students in all grades, not just high school, eligible for this personalized way of learning. It also allows school districts to join together in collaborative pilot programs, stretching tax dollars to assist more students.”

“I believe it is important we provide our students with a world-class education and allow opportunities for students to prepare for life, college, or the workforce before graduating high school,” said state Rep. Latoya Greenwood, D-East St. Louis. “I look forward to seeing the benefits of this program in school districts throughout Illinois as we strive to enhance the learning experience for our students.”

HB5627 becomes law on July 1, 2018. SB2941 is effective immediately.

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