Teach Plus Illinois Fellows Submit Open Letter to Governor Pritzker in Support of ISBE Budget Initiatives

Teach Plus Illinois Fellows Submit Open Letter to Governor Pritzker in Support of ISBE Budget Initiatives
Honorable J B Pritzker
Governor, State of Illinois
207 State House
Springfield, IL 62706
Dear Governor Pritzker:
We write to you as practicing educators and members of the Teach Plus Illinois Teaching Policy Fellowship, in which we work to increase equitable opportunities for students. We applaud your efforts to date to improve education in Illinois through increases to K-12 and early childhood education funding, increases to teacher pay, and elimination of the redundant basic skills test for teachers. As our group includes all of the 2020 finalists for Teacher of the Year, we were also honored that you were a part of this celebration in Bloomington-Normal last October 19th.
This year, our fellowship is working to address educator shortages with a comprehensive package of solutions to recruit, support, and retain educators at every stage of their careers. We are concerned about the future of education in Illinois, as we have seen the number of unfilled educator positions increase from 2,007 two years ago to 2,894 last year and a staggering 4,831 in the most recent data published by ISBE.1
As educators, parents, and other stakeholders, we need to take action to address this crisis while continuing to maintain standards that ensure all children have access to highly effective teachers. We write to request your support for the budget initiatives below that have been recommended by the Illinois State Board of Education to address the current crisis.
  • Recruitment: Educators Rising is a national program with a track record of success in recruiting high school students to join the teaching profession. With a membership of 43,000 students across 28 states–more than half of which are students of color–the program provides opportunities for students to engage in early teaching experiences and career exploration in high school.2 We believe Illinois should not only adopt this program statewide, but also build regional networks connecting high schools, community colleges, and educator preparation programs into comprehensive career pathways, following a model that has proven to be effective in our state. We ask that you include ISBE’s $1 million funding request for Educators Rising and $10 million request for the development of education career pathways in your state budget. 
  • Mentoring: Illinois has a statewide teacher mentoring initiative established by law. Unfortunately, this program has not been funded since 2009, leading to greater numbers of new teachers leaving the profession without this support. We know that mentor support is effective: in 2010-11, the new teacher “dropout rate” was 40% lower for teachers with mentor support.Mentoring is also a wise investment, as teacher turnover costs the state up to 71.7 million annually.4 Most importantly, supporting new teachers is an issue of educational equity, as students of color are 3-4 times more likely to be taught by a first-year teacher.Supporting these new teachers with mentoring services not only reduces the rate at which they leave but makes them more effective while they stay, which is particularly important in geographical and content areas facing shortages. We ask that you include ISBE’s $8 million funding request for new teacher mentoring and induction in your state budget. 
  • Recognition: As many of us have been recognized for classroom excellence, we appreciate the responsibility and opportunity we have to advocate for our students and our profession. ISBE’s Those Who Excel program is an important effort to recognize and celebrate highly effective teaching. However, this recognition is inequitable, as the costs incurred by the Teacher of the Year are borne by the teacher being recognized or the district where they teach. This means that the wealthiest districts, which can afford these costs, are over-represented in this program. In addition, several past teachers of the year have testified to the staggering levels of personal debt they incurred as a result of their recognition. We ask that you include ISBE’s $200,000 budget request for the Those Who Excel/Teacher of the Year program to expand recognition efforts, make them more equitable, and avoid placing financial burdens on our best teachers. 
  • Diversity: We know that students are more successful when teachers reflect the diversity of the students they serve, but also that teachers of color often face greater adversity on the path to the teaching profession and shoulder additional burdens once they reach the classroom.6 In order to attract a more diverse pool of teaching candidates, we ask that you include ISBE’s $5 million funding request for diverse educator recruitment in your state budget. In addition, recognizing that attention to long-term support and retention are also critical for teachers of color, we also ask for an increase in funding for ISAC’s Minority Teacher Scholarship, from $1.9 to $2.5 million, and the creation of a Bilingual Education Teacher Tuition Waiver modeled after the successful Special Education Waiver at a cost of $2 million. 
Investing in these areas will position Illinois to be a leader in recruiting and retaining excellent teachers and help make Illinois the best state in the country to raise children. In addition to these reforms to address the long-term, systemic issues that caused our current shortage, we acknowledge that more immediate solutions must also provide flexibility to schools in the short term. We will work to ensure that these short-term solutions are balanced by the need to maintain high standards for teachers. To this end, we look forward to your support by funding these initiatives in your budget and thank you in advance for your leadership in Illinois education.
2019-2020 Teach Plus Illinois Teaching Policy Fellows
Sabrina Alexander, NBCT, Chicago
Helen Brandon, Bloomington, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Karyn Baldwin, Elgin
Rachel Brick, Chicago
Anita Thawani Bucio, Ph.D., Evanston
Lisa Caputo Love, NBCT, Chicago
Robert Chikos, Crystal Lake
Jessica Day, O’Fallon
Shayla Ewing, Pekin
Charity Freeman, Chicago
Dan Hartman, Springfield, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Emily Hogan, Chicago
Jordan Hohm, East St. Louis
Victor Idowu, Chicago
Lindsey Jensen, Dwight, 2018 Illinois Teacher of the Year
Betrice Jones, Champaign
Carla Jones, NBCT, Chicago
Tanya Katovich, NBCT, Palatine, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Jessica Kibblewhite, Chicago
Stacy Krabbe, Woodstock, 2020 Early Career Educator of the Year
Adelaida Jiyun Kim, Chicago
Tamara Kuper, Aviston, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Jessica Kwasny, Park Ridge
Jennifer Leban, NBCT, La Grange Park, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Daisy Lopez, Chicago
Maggie Moore, Rockton, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Michael Murakami, Belleville, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Debra Nicholson, Matteson, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
Alexander Parker, La Grange
William Polasky III, NBCT, Stillman Valley, 2019 Teacher of the Year Finalist 
Amie Corso Reed, Ed.S., O’Fallon
Kiesha Rembert, Naperville
L’Rae Robinson, Chicago
Lisset Rosales, Chicago, 2018 Golden Apple Teacher of Distinction
Joseph Ruffolo, Ph.D., South Barrington, 2020 Teacher of the Year Finalist
La’Tia Taylor, Chicago
Arnetta Thompson, NBCT, Oak Park
Christa Valencia, Chicago
Nicole Vick, Abingdon
Staci Ward, Champaign
Crysta Weitekamp, NBCT, Springfield
Krista Wilson, Chicago
CC: Lieutenant Governor Juliana Stratton
Deputy Governor Jesse Ruiz
Darren Reisberg, Chairman, State Board of Education
Dr. Carmen Ayala, State Superintendent of Education
Dr. Ernesto Matias, Chief Education Officer
Irma Snopek, Policy and Communications Officer


3 First-year teachers who did not receive mentoring services left the profession at a rate of 35%, compared to 21% of those who received mentoring supports. Source: intc.education.illinois.edu/docs/librariesprovider14/resources/highlights2011may.pdf?sfvrsn=29c70681_2