Illinois school districts get 'much-needed help' in recruiting teachers

By Herald-Whig
Posted: Apr. 13, 2018 9:35 am

QUINCY -- Julie Stratman's job just might have gotten a little easier.

Legislation signed April 6 by Gov. Bruce Rauner makes it easier for teachers with out-of-state credentials to get licensed in Illinois.

"That is going to give us much-needed help to recruit teachers from other states," said Stratman, human resources director for Quincy Public Schools. "I've actually hired some people from Missouri, so this will make their job a lot easier for getting things to us."

Regional Superintendent Jill Reis said the law's provisions streamline requirements for teachers with a valid license in another state but wanting to be licensed in Illinois.

"I'm really glad we're making progress toward allowing more people to come and teach in Illinois," Reis said.

Teachers must have completed a program comparable to Illinois' teacher preparation program, determined by the Illinois State Board of Education, have a degree from a regionally accredited institute of higher education and have passed a basic skills test, a content area test for people who teach junior high and high school and an evidence-based educator effectiveness exam.

"If all those are met, what it looks like is you get a professional educator license in the state of Illinois," Reis said. "If they're not met, you get a provisional license. You can teach in Illinois with a provisional license. It allows you typically to teach for two years and in that two-year period, you make up whatever else you need."

The reciprocity provisions, effective immediately, are especially helpful to school districts in West-Central Illinois because of its proximity to Missouri and Iowa.

"For districts that are in the center of the state, it's not as big of a deal, but we pull teachers from Culver (Stockton College), from HLG (Hannibal-LaGrange University), and that's going to help out tremendously to help those teachers come over here and teach," Stratman said.

Previously, out-of-state teachers were required to take additional classes, which meant making an investment just to move to Illinois. "The hard thing was they're already certified in a different state. Why (spend) more money to take classes in Illinois?" Stratman said.

"We just had to talk with those people, be really upfront. This is what's going to happen when you come to Illinois," she said. "Now we won't have to have those conversations in depth with them. It will be much easier."

School districts in Adams, Brown, Cass, Morgan, Pike and Scott counties have expressed concerns to Reis throughout the school year about the state's licensing requirements.

"This is probably the third year that we've had schools start without having hired all their educators," Reis said. "Then they're forced to take a look and decide do we eliminate certain programs or see if we can bring back a retired educator to teach for a certain period of time."

Some schools, including Quincy High School, also are launching "grow your own" programs designed to give students looking at teaching opportunities in the classroom to create stronger ties with their home district "so they will want to come back and teach in the district they graduate from," Reis said.

In addition, Quincy University already offers, and Western Illinois University is developing, rural educator scholarship programs providing students who commit to teach in a rural district funds to help pay for their teaching preparation, Reis said.

Reis expects additional legislation this spring targeting the state's teacher shortage.

"I think the Legislature is still aware that we want to attract highly qualified educators," she said. "It's a complex issue, and so it's going to require multiple solutions. There will not be one single solution that ‘fixes' the educator shortage issue."