Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed four pieces of legislation into law Wednesday aimed at easing a shortage of teachers and classroom aides in public schools — an issue across the U.S.
The new laws lower the fee to reinstate a lapsed teaching certificate, allow student teaching by college seniors, lower the minimum age for classroom aides and extend the number of days in a row a short-term substitute can spend in one classroom if a disaster is declared. Pritzker signed the bills during a ceremony at Springfield High School, just two blocks from the Capitol.
The Illinois State Board of Education estimates that there will be about 4,120 openings in public schools this fall. That includes 1,700 teachers and 1,240 paraprofessionals, who are qualified, but unlicensed, educators who help teachers.
It's not a new situation and predates the COVID-19 pandemic. But the coronavirus, which forced schools into a roller-coaster of openings and closings, scheduling and staffing, worsened matters. Several lawmakers have been focused on getting classrooms staffed with qualified people.
Rep. Sue Scherer, a Decatur Democrat and former teacher, said a retired teacher who is a constituent wanted to help out because of the crisis before learning it would cost him $500 to reinstate his license. Scherer's legislation, run through the Senate by Democrat Meg Loughran Cappel of Shorewood, lowers that fee to $50 immediately.
A law taking effect Jan. 1, 2023, allows college students in education programs to be substitutes if they have at least 90 credit hours. The sponsors were Rep. Anne Stava-Murray, a Chicago Democrat, and Loughran Cappel.
A third law, sponsored by Chicago Democratic Sen. Cristina Pacione-Zayas and Bolingbrook Democratic Rep. Dagmara Avelar, lowers the age paraprofessionals may work to 18 from 19.
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Finally, a law sponsored by Stava-Murray and Springfield Democratic Sen. Doris Turner, that takes immediate effect means short-term substitutes now will be limited to 15 straight days in one classroom, up from five days, if the state is under a disaster declaration.
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