By EDWARD HUSAR
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Regional Superintendent Debbie Niederhauser is leading an effort to inform local teachers about a new state licensing system that goes into effect July 1.
Illinois is changing from an "educator certification system" to an "educator licensure information system" as part of the state education reforms approved by the General Assembly.
Niederhauser has been visiting schools in Adams and Pike counties to brief teachers on the changes and answer questions. Her Quincy-based office oversees teacher certification and licensing in the two counties.
Some details about the switch to a licensing system are still in development, but "we wanted to provide the most accurate, current understanding we could give people," she said. "They need to know this stuff."
According to a fact sheet distributed by the Illinois State Board of Education, the state's current system of issuing educator certificates "sometimes caused confusion for teachers and administrators." The fact sheet says "it has not always been clear from the certificate which subjects or grade levels the holder is qualified to teach."
To simplify matters, Illinois is moving from 60 types of educator certificates and endorsements to three type of licenses. They are:
º Professional educator license, which will generally be issued to teachers, administrators and school service personnel.
º Educator license with stipulations, which will be issued to paraprofessionals.
º Substitute teacher license.
Niederhauser said some of the biggest impact will be felt by paraprofessionals, who have not paid anything in the past for their certifications. Paraprofessionals now must be licensed, and the cost will be $50 for a five-year period -- the same rate now paid by teachers and administrators.
However, the state is waiving the $50 fee for paraprofessionals who sign up for licensing this year as a way to help make the transition more palatable.
All current certificates for paraprofessionals will expire this year, so the paraprofessionals will need to sign up for licensing between July 1 and the start of the school year in August, Niederhauser said. Those licenses will then have to be renewed for five years in 2018 for the $50 fee.
"Since you now have a license, you have to keep it up," Niederhauser told a group of educators Wednesday afternoon during a presentation at the Early Childhood and Family Center in Quincy.
If a license is allowed to lapse, the educator will have to pay a $500 penalty or complete nine semester hours of college coursework in the content areas identified in their credentials.
Teachers and administrators need to apply for licensing in the year their current five-year certification expires. Niederhauser urges those whose certification expires in 2013 to apply for licensing soon. "You want to get it done before the (July 1) deadline," she said.
Niederhauser said all current certification data and endorsements, which prove a teacher has the qualifications to teach certain subjects at certain grade levels, should be automatically carried over to the new licensing system. However, she urges all teachers to check the state's online certification system now to make a printout of their current credentials as a precautionary backup.
"You should not lose anything in this transfer," she told teachers at the meeting Wednesday.
However, bad things can happen when computers are involved, "so in this transition on July 1, if something is lost, then you have proof that you have it," she said.
Julie Schuckman, the center's director, said the new teacher licensing system will require a bit of a "learning curve" while teachers learn how the system works.
"Once they learn the system, it will be fine," she said.
Teachers with questions about the new licensing system should call (217) 277-2084 and talk with Ginger Scott, who has been trained in the new procedures. Information also is available on the ISBE's website, www.isbe.state.il.us/