05262017AM3381RSSPRINGFIELD – To make college more affordable, State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) is working to increase the availability of dual-credit classes in Illinois.

Bertino-Tarrant’s measure, Senate Bill 3190, requires public universities and community colleges to work with local high schools to grant dual credit to a student who completes an accredited course.

“While the cost of college continues to escalate nationwide, dual credit provides a great economic benefit for families and students by empowering students to accumulate college credit while still in high school,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “As the mother of a sophomore in high school, I know what parents are going through. Like any other parent, I want my children to graduate college full of opportunities, not burdened with student loans.”

Dual credit, which allows students to enroll in postsecondary coursework while still enrolled in high school, is a promising approach to improving academic outcomes for students.

Bertino-Tarrant said it helps prepare students for college coursework while helping them meet general high school requirements.

Research has shown that student participation in dual enrollment curriculum often leads to improved academic outcomes, especially for students from low-income backgrounds as well as first generation college students. Students who enroll in dual-credit courses are more likely to get better grades in high school and pursue a secondary education.

Under this bipartisan proposal, students are allowed to receive up to 60 hours of dual credit. Bertino-Tarrant believes this is a step toward making college more affordable by allowing students to meet general requirements at little to no cost.

“We need to continue to explore ways to make college more affordable and help students graduate without mountains of debt,” Bertino-Tarrant said.

Senate Bill 3190 passed the Senate’s education committee with bipartisan support and now heads to the full senate for consideration.

04252017CM1305rPLAINFIELD – A new law championed by State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood) will help alleviate the teacher shortage crisis in Illinois.

Bertino-Tarrant’s measure, Senate Bill 863, eases licensure requirements to allow out-of-state educators to be licensed in Illinois if they have already completed comparable state-approved training. It was signed into law last week and will take effect immediately.  

“There are quality educators who want to teach in Illinois classrooms,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “This new law is will cut bureaucratic red tape to allow qualified and dedicated teachers to start teaching in our schools without having to jump through extra hoops.”

Senate Bill 863 is an initiative of the State Board of Education that will make Illinois a more attractive home for out-of-state educators by allowing their licenses to transfer to Illinois without forcing them to duplicate certain trainings and applications.  

There are more than 2,000 teacher vacancies in the state, and Bertino-Tarrant believes this new law will help Illinois attract more teachers.

“Teacher shortages are driving up classroom sizes and ultimately shortchanging students,” Bertino-Tarrant said.  “Our classrooms rely on superb teachers. Streamlining the teacher licensure process will help Illinois attract the nation’s best and brightest to guarantee our children are given the best possible educational opportunities.”

WhiteHeadElementary2018ROCKFORD – State Senator Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, the new chairwoman of the Illinois Senate’s education committee, continued her statewide “Chalk Talk” tour of schools last week at Whitehead Elementary School.

Seven student ambassadors led Bertino-Tarrant and the school’s local state senator, Steve Stadelman (D-Rockford), on the tour. The students showed off recent gymnasium upgrades, innovative art and music classes and 40,000 new library books among other highlights of the district.

Bertino-Tarrant said she was impressed with the tour and noted on-site visits like this one put her new role as education committee chairwoman into perspective.

“Students of Whitehead Elementary demonstrate passion and take extreme pride in their school, and it is contagious,” Bertino-Tarrant said. “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to meet with such impressive students to see what their school day looks like. Visits like this help me gain a better understanding on how decisions we make in Springfield impact children and educators throughout the state.”

Rockford-area public schools will receive an additional $9.3 million for the current school year under the new funding formula that was championed by Stadelman and Bertino-Tarrant and passed into law last year.  

“Today’s tour of Whitehead Elementary reinforced my understanding of the tremendous work our teachers and principals do as they deal with the many challenges in today's classrooms," Stadelman said.  “The newly overhauled school funding formula I supported will begin to bring to Rockford the resources necessary to meet those challenges."

Bertino-Tarrant took particular interest in the proactive steps Rockford School District 205 is taking to alleviate local teacher shortages by partnering with Rockford University to provide incentives and training to high school students who would like to learn and work in the community.  

One of Bertino-Tarrant’s legislative priorities for the education committee is working to overhaul the teacher's licensure process to attract new teachers and provide a better support system to give them the tools to succeed.

"There are committed and dedicated educators throughout our state," Bertino-Tarrant said. "It's our duty to assist quality, enthusiastic educators in achieving and maintaining success."

Bertino-Tarrant and Stadelman are grateful for the time Principal Pam Miner and Superintendent Dr. Ehren Jarret set aside to meet with them.

“I’m always eager to show off our students, especially so guests can see their school pride firsthand through a student-led tour. I’m grateful our students had the opportunity to meet Sen. Bertino-Tarrant and Sen. Stadelman,” Jarret said.  “As a district, we appreciate their support for both Title I reform and Evidence-Based Funding, because both are critical to our students. We’re looking forward to working more with Sen. Bertino-Tarrant to sustain the commitment to the new state funding model, as well as addressing pressing issues, like teacher and substitute teacher shortages.

SPRINGFIELD – Illinois school districts that have not yet been able to afford the cost of installing reliable high-speed internet soon will be able to do so under a plan being advanced by a bipartisan group of state senators.

A proposal introduced by state senators Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant (D-Shorewood), Andy Manar (D-Bunker Hill) and Sam McCann (R-Plainview) and  sets aside $16.3 million in the upcoming state budget to help school districts foot the cost of installing fiberoptic cable for high-speed internet.

The $16.3 million would be matched nearly three to one by the federal government to cover the installation costs, which often are cost-prohibitive for school districts in hard-to-reach areas of the state. Costs can range from $75,000 more than $420,000 per school.

About 100 Illinois school districts with nearly 90,000 students currently do not have high-speed internet through fiberoptic infrastructure. Fiberoptic is faster, more reliable and more cost effective over the long term.

“Technology in school plays an impactful role in the inequalities we see in our schools. Students lack quality learning experiences simply because of their ZIP codes,” said Bertino-Tarrant, chairwoman of the Senate’s Education Committee. “We need to recognize that tech goes beyond a teaching tool, but allows training opportunities for teachers and expanded course selections for students.”

When schools lack high-speed internet, students are unable to take advantage of such routine modern classroom activities as streaming educational videos, participating in online testing, browsing the internet, playing educational games and engaging in remote learning.

“There’s federal money on the table that we can take advantage of, and we want to make sure we do that on behalf of school districts that can benefit from this state-federal partnership,” Manar said. “Rural schools need to be a priority in Illinois. The digital divide is another example of the inequities among school districts that we have to work to address.”

“Too many of our schools are unable to obtain reliable, high-speed internet access, leaving their schools on the wrong side of a digital education divide,” McCann said. “This legislation is a promise to students that we will do everything in our power to make sure they have access to the tools they need to succeed.”
The $16.3 million will come from the School Infrastructure Fund.

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