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Jun 18, 2019

Illinois Education Policy Update

In his first legislative session, Democratic Governor J.B. Pritzker ushered in a sharp reversal from the previous four years of austerity under Republican Governor Bruce Rauner with a bipartisan budget that included over $1 billion in new appropriations. In this budget, the Governor followed through on a signature campaign promise to increase education funding by appropriating $8.8 billion in funding for elementary and high schools. This was an increase in $379 million over last year’s budget and exceeded the $29 million increase required in the state’s recently revamped education funding formula.

In addition, the legislature passed several bills that made changes to Illinois’ public education system with a particular focus on the state’s teacher shortage problem. In 2018, the legislature passed a bill to allow for reciprocity so that teachers who move to Illinois from other states automatically qualify for their teaching credentials in Illinois. This change led to an increase in applicants and legislators sought to build on that success this year by passing other measures related to the teacher shortage issue. One piece of legislation seeks to ease the shortage by increasing the minimum salary for teachers to $40,000 by 2023. Lawmakers also passed legislation to eliminate the basic skills test required for teacher licensing. The basic skills test has become increasingly difficult over time and is one of three tests that applicants for teaching licenses must take. Currently the test has a 25% pass rate and is widely considered to be a deterrence for those hoping to enter the profession.

Another education bill advanced this session aims to encourage college attendance by requiring students to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) in order to receive a high school diploma. Legislators also passed the first capital bill in 10 years which will lead to much needed construction and repair projects for school districts throughout Illinois.