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Last week, Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker signed two CTU-sponsored bills into law that will help to alleviate substitute teacher shortages and improve the induction of new teachers into the profession.

Anyone who has ever worked in a school knows the value of a qualified substitute. That sub’s effectiveness can last for days after the main teacher’s absence. As such, CTU worked to pass SB 1584. Sponsored by State Sen. Omar Aquino and CTU member Rep. Aaron Ortiz, SB 1584 increases the number of days a retired teacher can substitute, from 100 to 120, without having any impact on that retiree’s pension. This measure ensures that CPS will have a larger pool of qualified subs and also that those retirees who commit months to serving in schools are not at risk of losing a year’s retirement security for their service.

Those who work in schools also know that standardized tests are a terrible measure of what students know and can do. That same limitation applies to aspiring educators; no standardized test measures how teachers, PSRPs, and clinicians connect with students, creatively solve problems, or effectively manage classrooms, nursing rooms, and libraries. Moreover, even though Illinois’ student population is more racially and ethnically diverse, Illinois’ teaching force, especially outside Chicago, remains overwhelmingly white. The history of racially discriminatory standardized tests is long and clear. And to add to these barriers, Illinois’ adoption of the edTPA requirement for licensure adds hundreds of dollars to the already sky-high cost of higher education. SB 1952, sponsored by downstate legislators Sen. Andy Manar and Rep. Sue Scherer, address all of these issues. The bill eliminates Illinois’ basic skills test that provides no useful information about who will or will not be a good teacher but does disproportionately impact Black and Latinx candidates. The bill provides, subject to appropriation, a refund of the edTPA costs for teachers in Tier 1 (i.e. lowest funded) districts, including CPS, who teach one year, thus providing a path to reducing higher education costs. And finally, the bill removes the prohibition on student teachers being paid. The student teaching semester is the biggest barrier for many folks, especially paraprofessionals who already work in schools and would become teachers except for the fact they can’t go a semester without income. This bill allows districts to pay student teachers.

These bills help address major issues that lead to staffing shortages. CTU will continue to advocate for even bigger fixes: appropriate state funding of education, a restoration of our right to bargain over staffing and class sizes (something every other district in Illinois is required to do), and an end to punitive, anti-educator laws around teacher evaluation and dismissal.