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Illinois State Board of Education, diversity recruiters, ask for more tax dollars

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(The Center Square) – Teach Plus, a special interest group, contributed to a $2.3 million increase in the 2023 state budget for the Minority Teachers of Illinois Scholarship to attract more teaching candidates of color. The group wants continued funding through the Illinois State Board of Education.

Executive Director Josh Kaufmann said in a House education committee hearing that the funds the group receives are supporting affinity groups that identify issues in the school district that are affecting retention. Kaufman said affinity groups get stipends.

“They [the affinity groups] will identify issues in their school district that are affecting retention and educators of color and they will be able to raise those issues within the district,” he said.

State Rep. Brad Halbrook, R-Shelbyville, said the committee is just trying to understand the effectiveness of the programs because their funding comes from federal COVID relief taxpayer funds that are going away.

“We have to find out all these different entities that are receiving tax dollars, where they fit in, what their effectiveness is and if they are a good value for taxpayers or not,” said Halbrook. “That’s what we are trying to understand as we go through this process.”

The Illinois State Board of Education called on legislators to use taxpayer money to fully fund public schools. They want additional funding for a comprehensive state literacy plan.

“That plan is brand spanking new and doesn’t currently receive any funding. Legislation passed last year charged ISBE with creating that plan. A year of work and engaging stakeholders went into that and now we are asking for $3 million to support the implementation of that plan,” said Stand for Children Illinois’ Government Affairs Director Aime Galvin.

ISBE is also requesting an additional $10 million for Career and Technical Education programs. Committee Chair state Rep. Will Davis, D-Hazel Crest, said CTE programs need to be made more available for upstate areas.

“We know a lot of these CTE programs are just commonplace in downstate areas, so the idea of growing them in the Chicago region is new,” said Davis. “For those who want to, we need to make sure they have access to the funding pathways to get there.”

State Rep. Blaine Wilhour, R-Beecher City, said that ISBE should look into how to utilize money that the state is already spending on community college CTE programs and to avoid duplicative funding. ISBE said they would look into ensuring legislators that the additional $10 million would not go toward costly programs that already exist.

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