For those who want to go back to school after receiving a bachelor’s degree to get a teaching certificate, one state lawmaker salutes you with a new proposed Monetary Award Program grant bill.
Last month, state Rep. Jeff Keicher, who represents the 70th House District, sponsored House Bill 3364, which, if passed, will allow students who already have obtained bachelor’s degrees to be eligible for MAP grants if they want to go back to school for teaching certifications.
Keicher, R-Sycamore, said the bill’s rationale is to address the teacher shortage in the state. He said his sister is a teacher, and he has seen firsthand what she had to do to fund her education, including waiting tables.
“And I know many teachers or people who go back wanting to go into the teaching field face that same issue,” Keicher said.
Keicher said those students still will have to meet MAP grant eligibility requirements, along with having to go into the teaching field within seven years of getting the license and teaching for a minimum of five years. He said the bill isn’t creating giveaways by any means.
“It’s just expanding the eligibility to people in need for people that are going out to help our students,” Keicher said.
DeKalb County Regional Superintendent Amanda Christensen said she thinks expansion of the grant is another option to explore for a multifaceted problem such as the state’s teacher shortage.
“With the staggering amount of student debt that individuals already accrue just trying to get a bachelor’s degree, any type of financial assistance to lead them in the direction of teaching preparation is probably going to be a help,” Christensen said.
However, she said she is concerned about the bill’s funding and any unintended consequences.
Sandwich High School Principal Tom Sodaro said the school had so many applicants for teaching jobs when he first started as an administrator 21 years ago that the school stopped going to job fairs. Now, he said, it’s getting increasingly more difficult to find foreign language and science teachers, along with substitute teachers, and the effect is starting to trickle down to subjects where there are a large number of applicants otherwise, such as English and social studies.
“We worry about the next few years in getting those as people retire or move on when trying to fill those positions,” Sodaro said.
Sodaro said he thinks the bill is made with good intentions, but he worries about how it will affect families, students and taxpayers.
Keicher said the funds for those potential additional MAP grant recipients still would be drawn from the same financial pool.
“It wouldn’t expand the pot of money or expand appropriations,” Keicher said.
Jamie Craven, superintendent for DeKalb School District 428, said there are no unfilled positions in DeKalb schools. However, he said, the low number of students in teacher preparation programs in the state, coupled with the number of people retiring in the next two to five years, concerns him.
For that reason, Craven said, he supports the bill.
“I appreciate his effort in trying to solve this problem that’s soon going to be a crisis in Illinois,” Craven said.
Keicher said there will be a committee hearing for the bill in the next few weeks. He said he hopes to push the bill out to the floor by the end of April.