Proposed Illinois bill addresses teacher shortages and solutions

MOLINE, Ill. (KWQC) - An Illinois bill addressing teacher shortages has passed out of the Illinois senate education committee.

The bill has three main components - 
First, Illinois schools can now have salary increases of up to 6% instead of being capped at 3%. This is important because if a teacher becomes a coach or club advisor, the school would have to pay a fine if that promotion exceeded the 3% allowed.

Second, student teachers would be paid. That position is currently unpaid for many college students.

And third, some basic skills tests would be removed. Illinois requires extra tests and requirements than other states, and supporters of the bill say it's a big deterrent.

TV-6 spoke with the regional superintendent, Tammy Muernoff, and she thinks those extra tests may make teaching in Illinois less appealing. Especially since the state borders with many others, future teachers could go somewhere that has less requirements.

“It's difficult to obtain Illinois licensure” explained Muernoff. “Some of those processes, I would say have been simplified. But there are still large challenges and at times, that deters folks from actually applying. But there are additional tests that are required which could be costly. It's time intensive.”

Another possibility to why there has been such a teacher shortage, Muernoff says, could be the fact that student teaching is an unpaid full-time job.

“Currently, student teachers aren't paid while student teaching so they're essentially working full time but not being paid. Granted, it's part of coursework, but not everyone is able to financially handle that” said Muernoff. She believes that by paying student teachers, there may be an increase in people with appropriate training.

According to a study done by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools in 2018, superintendents in 85% of districts surveyed believed they have either a major or minor problem with teacher shortages ... up from 78% in 2017.
And 20% of all teaching positions are either unfilled or are filled by an unqualified professional. 

The bill is expected to have a few amendments, but a spokesperson for bill Sponsor Senator Manar says it is very likely the bill will pass.