Capital Dispatch

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SPRINGFIELD—The Illinois legislature has approved a bill designed to increase the number of teachers in high-need schools by recruiting parents and teacher aides.

Under a new program called Grow Our Own Teachers, universities would work with school districts, community groups and colleges, and teacher unions to help people already involved with schools become teachers while they remain in their current jobs. The bill would forgive student loans if the newly minted teachers stay in high-need schools for five years. Schools’ eligibility would be determined based on the percentage of uncertified teachers and the rate of teacher turnover.

State Sen. Iris Y. Martinez, the Chicago Democrat who sponsored the measure, says it would curb high teacher turnover in needy schools and could add 1,000 new teachers by 2016.

Lawmakers who voted against the bill expressed concerns over costs, at a time when the state is facing a projected $1.7 billion deficit. As written, the bill does not include funding, which would have to be appropriated annually.

Many opponents suggested the state should first pay for its proven teacher-training programs, like the Golden Apple Scholars, which Gov. Rod Blagojevich cut from his budget. Supporters are trying to restore that program’s $3.8 million funding. Blagojevich has until late July to act on the new measure.