SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education today announced a $4 million grant, funded with federal pandemic relief dollars, to support the bilingual educator pipeline. The grant will cover the cost of tuition for current educators to earn full licensure to teach English Learners.
Illinois schools have a high demand for bilingual education teachers, second only to the demand for special education teachers. In October 2021, Illinois school districts reported 98 vacancies for bilingual education classroom teachers. Data from the 2020-21 school year show that the pandemic disproportionately impacted the academic and social-emotional well-being of Illinois' English Learners, who likely needed more support in order to engage in learning virtually. The number of English Learners meeting standards in English language arts or math in 2021 dropped by half compared to 2019. Chronic absenteeism increased 38 percent. Strengthening the bilingual educator pipeline is crucial to supporting English Learners' recovery from the pandemic.
“I served as the director of bilingual services in a school district for nine years, so I know how critical it is for English Learners to have properly trained and licensed teachers – it's important for any child, but especially for children learning English. Their ability to flourish in school in any subject depends wholly on getting effective services to support their language development," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “I encourage school districts to take advantage of this opportunity. And I encourage any teacher who may be looking to advance in their career or take on a new challenge to consider obtaining their ESL or bilingual endorsement – now entirely for free."
There are 2,220 bilingual education teachers in Illinois who currently have a non-renewable five-year provisional license, known as the Educator License with Stipulations with a Transitional Bilingual Education endorsement (ELS-TBE). These educators need to earn a Professional Educator License (PEL) in order to continue serving as teachers beyond the five-year term of the ELS-TBE.
Additionally, any Illinois teacher holding a PEL can earn a subsequent English as a Second Language (ESL) or Bilingual endorsement to help meet critical English Learner needs in their attendance centers.
The two-year grant, funded with American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief dollars, will enable school districts to pay tuition for both groups of educators to earn the credentials they need: for teachers with an ELS-TBE to earn full licensure and for teachers with a PEL to earn ESL and/or Bilingual endorsements.
ISBE has extended the deadline for interested school districts to fill out the
Intent to Apply form to
5 p.m. March 11. Find additional resources about bilingual and ESL licensure on the