Due to absences and remote learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, many students will need to attend summer school during the summer. It can be tough for schools, who are also facing a statewide teacher shortage, to keep their classrooms staffed, particularly during the summer.
State Senator Steve McClure (R-Springfield) and Representative Mike Marron (R-Fithian) have passed legislation to give schools new tools to get teachers into classrooms.
“Our students and their schools faced immense challenges during the last two school years, from remote learning to required-quarantining,” said Senator McClure. “This legislation will help schools staff classrooms and get their students back on track to succeed academically.”
“The schools have been teaching virtually due to the pandemic, and we are now at the point of safely having the children back into the classroom. However, many students, especially in economically challenged neighborhoods, need special attention and in-person instruction to bring them up to the level they need to be,” said Representative Marron. “There are several schools in my district and across the state that have many technology and economic resource issues that may have affected some student’s ability to e-learn throughout the last 14 months. This bill will ensure that every school district has the resources needed to provide an opportunity for every one of our students to catch up.”
Many schools are hoping to use federal COVID funding to add summer programs to help students catch up. However, there can be payroll issues where schools end up owing a penalty to the state’s pension system for summer school salaries.
The state’s teacher pension system has a cap on how much teachers’ salaries can increase in a year. The limits can kick in when schools, who are trying to staff programs with the best teachers possible during a teacher shortage, need to utilize experienced teachers. This can make it hard for schools to properly staff summer programs.
Senate Bill 1646 removes the salary cap for teachers while they are teaching summer school between May 1st, 2021 and September 15th, 2021.
The legislation also includes changes to help public schools recruit teachers with private school experience.
Private school teachers aren’t part of the state’s pension program. When they move to a public school, they will likely lose benefits in whatever private retirement program they had before, and their prior years of private school teaching won’t count toward their new state pension. This creates a financial disincentive for teachers considering making the switch.
Senate Bill 1646 would allow teachers to pay into the system to cover both the employee and employer pension contributions, plus the actuarially assumed rate of interest, for up to two years of private teaching. It also requires that their previous private school was certified by the Illinois State Board of Education. Teachers would have until June 30, 2023 to take advantage of the program.
SB1646 passed both the Illinois Senate and House and is now headed to the Governor for his signature.