Broader hiring, better schools

Belleville High School District 201 had a strong applicant for a principal job recently. He had a bachelor’s, two masters’ and a specialist degree. But because he was licensed in Missouri, his application was a nonstarter.

Illinois has built such a high wall around itself, it’s next to impossible for schools to hire someone licensed in another state. There are too many hurdles to clear, too much time and work involved.

It wasn’t always this way. At one time Illinois had reciprocal licensing agreements with 37 states. But today it has zero.

The walls were erected in the name of quality and high standards, but these walls have hurt more than they have helped. By drastically reducing the pool of candidates, school districts can’t always hire the best qualified teachers and administrators. That can be a major problem in areas with a shortage of teachers such as math and science, and it makes it more difficult to find minority candidates.

It’s particularly frustrating in the metro-east, where all sorts of excellent candidates from St. Louis and licensed and Missouri need not apply.

Fortunately Illinois lawmakers are moving toward fixing this problem. House Bill 2657 passed last week 110-0, and is awaiting a vote in the Senate. The bill doesn’t create direct reciprocity, but it should provide out-of-state candidates a simpler path to get hired in Illinois. Most educators feel the changes will fix the problem.

We urge the Senate to pass the bill, and Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign it.

The bill is part of an initiative called Vision 20/20, a sort of blueprint for improving education in Illinois. The effort has been led by Brent Clark, a former District 201 superintendent who is now head of the Illinois Association of School Administrators. The Vision 20/20 members listened to people from around the state about what works and what doesn’t, and have put together comprehensive, common-sense recommendations.

The students of Illinois will benefit if these walls come down.