SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) – Legislation passed out of the Illinois House aims to pay back public school teachers for the cost of their education, but opponents to the bill say it costs too much and does too little.

Teachers would have to apply for the reimbursement program, but the legislation said they would be eligible if they have graduated or are currently in a state university program, and if they work in public schools or have worked in them for one year at the time of their application.

Students are responsible to pay for their schooling, but afterward, if they are a part of the public school system, they will be reimbursed for one-tenth of the tuition and fees they paid, once a year for up to ten years.

The National Education Association estimates educators owe an average of $55,800. As an example, if they paid $50,000, they would receive a $5,000 reimbursement once a year.

Bill sponsor Rep. Sue Scherer (D – Decatur), a retired teacher herself, said she hopes this legislation will address one of the worst teacher shortages in decades.

“It addresses this dying need we have for teachers and it also secures that they will teach in a public school in Illinois for ten years,” Scherer said.

“We have the most serious teacher shortage in the history of our country,” she continued.

However, Republican members of the House argued the bill comes with too high of a cost — $1.4 billion dollars — and would reimburse everyone without any qualifications. Scherer countered that the amount she was given for the cost of the program would be $88 million dollars for the next fiscal year. over 18 years, it would add up to the $1.4 billion.

Both Rep. Avery Bourne (R – Farmersville) and Rep. C.D. Davidsmeyer (R – Jacksonville) gave examples of rich family members paying for education that then would be reimbursed with tax dollars.

“I want to encourage there to be more students who go to be teachers in Illinois, we have a dramatic teacher shortage,” Bourne said. “This bill does not help the people it’s intended to help.”

There were no estimates of how many reimbursements would be given to students who had their education paid for by wealthy family members.

Additionally, Rep. Jeff Keicher (R – Sycamore) said funding should be given to already-existing programs, such as Golden Apple which directs teachers into high-demand areas for educators.

There are similar programs where tuition reimbursement is used as an incentive for recruiting for lawyers. Additional programs are under consideration for other under-staffed professions, like nursing, pharmacists and law enforcement.

“We are competing with every kind of high-paying job on earth, to try and get someone to become a teacher,” Scherer said. “There are so many reasons they can think of for why they don’t want to do it. Please don’t give them this excuse also.”

The bill passed 72-40 and now heads to the Senate.

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March 3, 2022 at 07:32PM