AURORA, Ill. – A bill supported by state Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, which expands grants for teachers planning on working in hard-to-staff school districts, was recently signed into law.
“Illinois has suffered through a pretty significant teacher shortage in the last five years, and that shortage is even more detrimental in low-income schools, special education, and bilingual classes,” said Hernandez. “It is critical that we do more to not only encourage new teachers to work in these positions, but also to make sure we are providing them with the necessary support along the way.”
Hernandez backed House Bill 35, which amends the Grow Your Own Teacher Education Act. The Grow Your Own Teacher Education Initiative (GYO) is a state-funded initiative created to increase the number of teachers filling positions in hard-to-staff schools and to diversify faculty. The main component of the program is to place prospective teachers in learning cohorts, partner with school districts in community activities and assist with financial aid. Several of the programs around the state went unfunded during the budget impasse. Under this new act, the GYO will be able to administer their own teacher preparation program and expand grants throughout the state. It also allows high school students who are enrolled in dual credit courses to participate in the program.
“Those who decide to teach in underserved school districts know that they will be faced with more challenges and adversity, so Grow Your Own is ensuring that these future teachers are supported and motivated to continue on with education,” said Hernandez. “By expanding this grant program, we will be able to recruit more diverse young leaders who will have a positive impact on our most vulnerable students.”