SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois Education Association (IEA) worked to pass legislation that will give people additional avenues to become licensed paraprofessionals in Illinois. Both the Illinois House of Representatives and the Illinois Senate have voted to pass Senate Bill 10 (SB10), and the legislation immediately became law.
“We knew we needed to do something to immediately address this crisis. We need to encourage good, qualified people to pursue careers in education. Our students need them,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said.
Paraprofessionals are often called paraeducators, or teacher’s aides, and work alongside teachers in schools providing a wide variety of services to students, including working with small groups of students, assisting with classroom duties and being a one-on-one aide to a student with special needs. According to the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) unfilled positions report, as of Oct. 1, there were 955 paraprofessional vacancies in Illinois’ public schools. That’s compared to 841 paraprofessional vacancies at the same time in 2018 and 465 vacancies at the same time in 2017.
SB 10 addresses an inadvertent change made by lawmakers when Senate Bill 1952 (SB1952) passed during the 2019 legislative session. SB 1952 took effect immediately, significantly increasing the requirements for paraprofessionals to become licensed in Illinois.
Paraprofessionals can now be licensed by doing one of the following:
- High school diploma and passage of basic skills test;
- Sixty semester hours; or
- Earning an associate degree.
“We’ve been hearing a lot about the teacher shortage in Illinois, but what we really have is an educator shortage. It’s a crisis. We don’t have enough people choosing to pursue a career in our classrooms,” said Griffin, of the IEA. “Without paraeducators, teachers and education support staff in our schools, our students are losing out. We have to continue to look for ways to encourage people to seek a career in our schools, so we can provide an equitable, high-quality public education to all of our students.”
The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.