SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — State Senator Tom Bennett (R-Gibson City) is working to advance school-focused legislation aimed at addressing the Illinois teacher shortage, as well as adjusting how school districts can implement remote learning days in emergencies.

“We need our schools to prepare children to be successful adults in an increasingly competitive global economy. To do that, we need quality teachers in the classroom,” said Bennett. “These bills are aimed at making a dent in the teacher shortage that is keeping qualified educators out of the classroom.”

Senate Bill 1488 deals with the much-criticized edTPA evaluation for prospective teachers. The standard is currently a requirement for college students studying to become teachers and has been cited by many of them as the reason that they gave up on that career path. Education experts have criticized edTPA as being costly to college students, for taking too much time away from in-classroom training, and for being a poor method of determining the likely success of future teachers.

Bennett’s legislation waives the edTPA requirement for two years and creates the Teacher Performance Assessment Task Force to develop a better evaluation system.

Senate Bill 1468 would help retired teachers return to the classroom to cover temporary vacancies and to serve as substitutes. The legislation would allow retired teachers to work 120 days or 600 hours in each school year.

Bennett was also able to advance legislation to help schools deal with emergencies. Senate Bill 1470 allows districts to utilize remote learning days in place of emergency days, for a total of 5 days per year. The goal is to offer schools another tool to manage emergencies and scheduling issues, while still providing the best education possible for students.

“These are all common-sense solutions to help schools do what we expect, which is to get good teachers into classrooms, and to provide a good educational program for the students and families they serve,” said Bennett.

All three bills passed the Senate with bipartisan votes and now await action in the House.