Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur) | repcaulkins.com
In the midst of a massive teacher shortage throughout the state, new legislation set out to make it easier for former teachers to return to the classroom was recently approved by both the House Elementary and Secondary Education committees in hope of reeling some of those former educators back in.
House Bill 4382, sponsored by state Rep. Dan Caulkins (R-Decatur), will reduce the penalty for renewing an expired Professional Educator License (PEL).
“We have a teacher shortage in Illinois,” Caulkins said in a statement on his website. “The state is currently discouraging retired educators by charging individuals a $500 penalty to return to the classroom. The state should not be in the business of penalizing former teachers that want to come back and help educate our next generation.”
HB 4382 reinstates a lapsed PEL upon payment of a $10 penalty for each year the license has been expired and a maximum penalty would be reduced from the current $500 penalty to $100.
“The sooner we make it easier for former teachers to return to the classroom, the better off we will be," Caulkins said. "We should encourage experienced educators to return to the classroom rather than penalizing them for allowing their teaching license to lapse.”
Illinois Education Association President Kathi Griffin recently told WAND-TV that she believes that a modern cultural change has led to the shortage.
"We have a crisis in public education," Griffin said. "If a student perhaps does misbehave or doesn't do an assignment and you contact home, sometimes it's turned around that it's the teacher's fault."
Additionally, Griffin noted the issues with low salaries deterring graduates from pursuing careers in education.
"Students who are coming out of school, with the debt that they have, oftentimes, they're not following their passion of becoming teachers," she said. "And instead, they're picking a career where they can make more money."
Aside from HB 4382, state lawmakers have also tried to address this issue by pushing to raise the state's minimum teaching salary to $40,000 by 2023.