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Lawmakers propose additional financial aid to keep teachers in Illinois

PULASKI COUNTY (WSIL) — As more teachers are needed in Illinois, lawmakers are looking at financial incentives to encourage more graduates to remain here.

"There’s definitely a need for more teachers, and especially in southern Illinois where we have a lower population rate," said Shawnee Community College Interim President Kathleen Curphy.  She is in favor of a new bill that would help keep aspiring teachers in Illinois. "And it’s very, very hard to bring in outsiders; so, if we have the opportunity to grow our own or to keep our local people here, we should use that opportunity to do so."

Senate Bill 1809 generated overwhelming support in the senate where it passed 56-to-1 in April. The MAP Grant Teacher Extension bill offers an additional year of funding for students who enroll in a state-approved educator program, and teaches in Illinois for a minimum of three years.

Shawnee student Faith Giel said being financially stable is an important part of continuing her education. She said she will look into applying for this program if it becomes law.

"They’re giving me the tools I need to give those students what they need later on," said Giel. "So, it is incentive, and it’s exactly what education is about; offering tools and getting people to where they need to be (to be) successful."

Shawnee is already in the process of addressing teacher shortages. Shawnee redesigned its teaching program to make the transition to SIU, SEMO and Murray easier for students.

"They can come here, finish a degree, go to SIUC in Carbondale and then stay in the area where their family and friends are," said Curphy

Which is exactly what Giel said she wants: to finish school and stay in Illinois with a career in teaching, "Because I wouldn’t want to teach in a place that doesn’t feel like home."

To keep recipients of the additional grant funding in Illinois, teachers who fail to live up to their end of the bargain would be required to repay a portion of that funding dependent on how long they taught here.

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