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Illinois Eases Licensing Rules for Out-of-State Teachers to Stem Shortages

Illinois is the latest state to ease licensure requirements for out-of-state educators hoping to teach in its classrooms.

 "We are clearing a better pathway to the classroom for teachers who have moved to Illinois and ensure they can focus on the important job they do, which is educating our children," Governor Bruce Rauner said while signing the bill earlier this month at a high school in rural downstate Illinois. 

The legislation, which received unanimous support in both chambers of the state legislature, directs the Illinois State Board of Education to start granting teaching licenses to educators with "comparable" credentials from other states. The lawmakers leave it up to the board to determine what constitutes comparable credentials. The bill also reduces the fee associated with applying for a substitute-teaching license. Lawmakers at the bill signing stressed how the legislation would especially help rural schools.

"These common-sense changes to the state's licensure system will make it easier and more attractive for qualified teachers to seek work in Illinois," said State Senator Karen McConnaughay. "I believe this new law will help reduce the shortage of teachers in a number of Illinois communities, as well as the shortage of substitute teachers across the state, which many schools have been grappling with. This will be particularly helpful in rural areas, which have been hit hard by this shortage, and our border communities, which have seen qualified teachers seeking placement in neighboring states."

The New York State Board of Regents adopted similar new rules last summer, dropping a requirement that out-of-state teachers pass the state's certification exams. But the case of Minnesota underscores how this is easier said than done.

A 2004 effort in Minnesota to streamline the licensure process for out-of-state educators has been mired in red tape for years now. While 531 teachers were granted licenses between 2004 and 2011, the process stopped without explanation in 2012. This has led to a protracted legal battle in which a state court judge recently held the Board of Teaching, an 11-member panel responsible for licensing teachers, in contempt of court. 

The teaching board's executive director, Erin Doan, defended the board's track record, arguing that the process was complicated by how the state divides responsibilities for granting teaching licenses between the board and the state education department. 

While the Minnesota case highlights potential pitfalls, Phillip S. Rogers, the executive director of the National Association of State Directors of Teacher Education and Certification, told Education Week Teacher's Ross Brenneman that the trend line is clear: "We've seen more states than ever that consider themselves full-reciprocity states. Ten years ago, you would never have states that say that."


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