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Red tape deterring too many teachers from coming to Illinois

manar lightford 110617DECATUR – Teachers around the country often skip over Illinois when they’re looking for a job because of low starting salaries, licensure difficulties, lack of mentoring and other issues, Senators Andy Manar, Kimberly Lightford and Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and members of the Senate Education Committee learned Monday during a hearing about the statewide teacher shortage.

“Today’s hearing allowed us to learn from people on the front lines of public education about the barriers that keep teachers from seeking jobs in very good school districts across Illinois,” said Manar, a Bunker Hill Democrat and a member of the Illinois Senate’s Education Committee, which convened its hearing Monday afternoon at Decatur Public Schools’ Keil Administration Building.

“Right now, we have empty classrooms in schools across the 48th Senate District because state bureaucracy is getting in the way of making sure we have teachers to fill those jobs. Clearly, there are things we can do to make sure licensing is seamless so that we can get educators into these classrooms.”

Manar said information from the hearing will be used to determine whether there are changes that can be made to state law that could reverse the trend, making it easier for teachers to be hired in Illinois.

“There are committed and dedicated educators in our community,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “It’s our duty to ensure we help quality individuals, who want to be in the classroom, be successful.”

Numerous education professionals offered testimony at Monday’s hearing about the reasons for the shortage and possible solutions, such as making it easier to out-of-state professionals to be certified in Illinois, addressing pay disparities, better marketing of the teaching profession to college students, offering new teachers more professional support and mentoring opportunities, identifying “high-need” school districts that have particular difficulty attracting applicants and developing stronger relationships between universities and school districts.

“Attracting quality educators to our state is vital to our education system and providing our children with the best possible education. We need to offer teachers support for things they were not taught to deal with in school, provide mentoring opportunities, identify districts with higher needs that have a harder time attracting teachers and work to strengthen the high school-to-classroom pipeline,” Lightford said.

Those who addressed the committee included Decatur Public Schools Superintendent Paul Fregeau; Jason Helfer of the Illinois State Board of Education; representatives of the Illinois Federation of Teachers, the Illinois Education Association and the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants; Anna Quinzio-Zafran of the National Board Resource Center; Diane Rutledge of the Large Unit District Association; and others.