Rep. Davidsmeyer passes legislation to help combat Illinois’ teacher shortage

By Blake Schnitker on March 21 at 9:32am

Link to WLDS 1180 AM News Story

A local state representative has worked to pass legislation aimed at combatting Illinois’ significant teacher shortage.

Jacksonville-based State Representative C.D. Davidsmeyer, of Illinois’ 100th House District, passed legislation yesterday amending the Downstate Teacher Article of the Illinois Pension Code to extend a window that would allow retired teachers to return to work in subject short areas without impairing their retirement status or annuity. Currently, retired teachers in the state of Illinois can return-to-work without penalty so long as they work less than 100 days or 500 hours. If those retired teachers exceed the day or hour limitations, they must suspend their pension benefits and return to active service.

Davidsmeyer says the Illinois House has amended the teacher pension code in the past when it comes to combatting the teacher shortage. He explains how those amendments work to help with the issue.

“The bill that we just passed is actually a bill that we’ve passed in prior General Assemblies and it sunsets just in case the teacher shortage goes away, but it doesn’t appear to be going away anytime soon. So we passed it again and it basically says that, if there’s an open position and you can’t fill it with a current or new teacher, then you can bring back a retired teacher without it affecting their pension. Obviously the goal is that you don’t have to stop offering certain classes or you can make sure to have smaller class sizes to continue to provide the best education possible,” says Davidsmeyer.

Another issue that Davidsmeyer specifically has concerns about involves what’s referred to as the “Tier 2 pension.”

“(Tier 2 pension) put retirement age for teachers at 67, so having that energy and that same love for the classroom at 67 is a tough thing. It also decreased what an individual received, so at some point there’s a possibility that people will receive less from their pension than they would if they just received social security, so that’s definitely a concern. The reality is, teachers negotiated out of social security, which was approved by the federal government, but it was a negotiation. So they don’t receive that extra backing from the federal government because they currently don’t pay into it,” Davidsmeyer explains.

Ultimately, Davidsmeyer says there will need to be more legislative measures and other larger, overarching trends implemented when it comes to solving the state’s teacher shortage.

“If a kid goes away to Missouri and gets a teaching degree, if they want to come back to the state of Illinois, they have to take extra classes. So while it sounds good to have a higher standard, it’s kind of a disincentive to come back to the state of Illinois. People may stay in Missouri or Indiana or wherever they go off to school to and feel like they don’t want to come back because they don’t want to take the additional courses required to get an Illinois state teaching license,” says Davidsmeyer.

According to a press release from Representative Davidsmeyer, there are currently 29-hundred unfilled teaching positions in the state of Illinois. The bill passed unanimously, 115-0, and now heads to the Illinois Senate for their consideration.