Capitol Briefs: House OKs program for student teacher stipends – but not the funding for it

State leaders honor fallen firefighters at annual Capitol ceremony

State Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, is pictured in a file photo on the Illinois House floor. She’s the sponsor of a bill to create a stipend program for student teachers, although she said she doesn’t expect funding to be allocated for it in next year’s budget.

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House approved a bill Tuesday to allow student teachers to receive stipends while earning their education degree, even though the money needed to fund those stipends is unlikely to be included in next year’s budget.

House Bill 4652, by Rep. Barbara Hernandez, D-Aurora, authorizes the Illinois Board of Higher Education to disburse stipends of $10,000 per semester to student teachers working in public schools. That’s the rough equivalent of $15 an hour, based on a standard 40-hour work week. It also authorizes stipends of $2,000 per semester to the teachers who supervise them.

But the authority to disburse those funds would be subject to appropriations. And with an estimated annual cost of $68 million to fully fund the program, Hernandez conceded it is unlikely such funding will be included in the budget for the upcoming fiscal year that lawmakers are currently negotiating.

“I do not think so, unfortunately,” she said during debate on the House floor.

The proposal is an initiative of the Illinois Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, and the advocacy group Advance Illinois. They argued in committee hearings that the lack of compensation for student teachers deters many prospective teachers from completing their degrees, adding to the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

The bill passed the House with bipartisan support, 85-23. But it also drew criticism from some who said the General Assembly spends too much time authorizing programs it can’t afford to fund.

“Here we go again, folks. We’re passing bills that are subject to appropriations,” said Rep. Fred Crespo, D-Hoffman Estates. “I get the sense that we think it’s like Monopoly money. But you’re creating a line item and you’re putting pressure on the budget. It’s an empty promise that gives people a false sense of hope.”

The bill next goes to the Senate for consideration.

Fallen firefighters remembered

Firefighters, families and officials from around Illinois gathered in Springfield Tuesday to remember the firefighters who died in the line of duty in the last year.

Five individuals were memorialized during the annual Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial. They include Jermaine Pelt, Andrew “Drew” Price, Lt. Jan Tchoryk and Lt. Kevin Ward, all of the Chicago Fire Department, and Maroa Countryside Fire Protection District Chief Larry Peasley. Their names are now engraved in the Illinois Firefighter Memorial outside the Capitol.

“Each year at this sacred memorial service we offer tribute to those heroes,” Gov. JB Pritzker said at the ceremony. “To remind us of the sacrifice they made and to beckon forth within ourselves a reminder of our greatest aspirations to serve our families, our communities, our nation with honor.”

Families of the fallen firefighters were bestowed with gold badges at a ceremony following the memorial. Medals of honor and valor were also given to firefighters from across the state.

While the event usually takes place on the Capitol lawn, this year it was indoors due to weather.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Peter Hancock - Capitol News Illinois

Peter Hancock covers Illinois news and and politics for Capitol News Illinois