UNIVERSITY PARK | State legislators from the south suburbs are working this spring to approve a bill that would ensure an alternative teacher certification program at Governors State University.
The program that is meant to create a larger body of teachers who can work in school districts that have harder times attracting qualified educators is funded through a federal grant, with time limits set under which the money must be used.
But those time limits do not allow for all the people currently enrolled in the program to complete it.
That led to the Illinois House of Representatives voting 118-0 on Wednesday in favor of a bill that says everyone admitted to an alternative certification program on or before Sept. 1 will have until Jan. 1, 2016, to complete the program. Previously, the deadline was Jan. 1, 2015, because that was the time limit set by the federal grant for spending the $7.1 million in funding.
University officials say the extension will ensure that somewhere between 40 and 50 students now enrolled in the program will be able to complete it.
“If we don’t get the extension, then there’s no use to having the program because not everybody (enrolled in it) will be able to finish,” said Maureen Kelly, a legislative representative with the university who worked with the staffs of Reps. Anthony DeLuca, D-Chicago Heights, and Al Riley, D-Olympia Fields, to craft the House version of the bill.
Kelly said the Legislature’s work on this bill is far from complete.
The bill now goes to the Illinois Senate, where Sens. Toi Hutchinson, D-Olympia Fields, and Michael Hastings, D-Orland Hills, will be its sponsors. Kelly said there will be further amendments made in coming weeks to clarify that the change in date would apply only to students at Governors State University.
If the state Senate approves the amended bill, it would have to return to the Illinois House for another favorable vote before it could be sent to Gov. Pat Quinn for final consideration.
Kelly said the change to be made in the Senate is important because the Illinois State Board of Education had objected to the bill on the grounds that it had already once altered the dates for alternative teacher certification programs and feared additional extensions could lead to governmental abuse.
“We’re making it clear that this change is limited to Governors State,” Kelly said. “It’s just this one time.”
State Board of Education officials were not available on Friday to comment.