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Diversifying the Teacher Pipeline

In Illinois, just 17% of teachers are people of color, compared to 52% of K-12 students. We need more BIPOC teachers in Illinois and are prioritizing equity and building a diverse teacher pipeline.

As a Hunt Kean Leadership Fellow, the Hunt Institute has been invaluable in providing Lt. Governor Stratton resources and support in education work—including as a partner in the initiative to build a strong, diverse teacher pipeline.

Investing in education in Illinois means investing in our future workforce. Addressing the nationwide teacher shortage’s impact on Illinois will create pathways for equitable opportunities for all educators.

The Inaugural Illinois Legislators Retreat with the Hunt Institute in 2021 convened lawmakers, educators, and advocates at Chicago State University to discuss education reform. Event co-chairs, Senators Kimberly A. Lightford and Dale Fowler, and State Representatives Carol Ammons and Aaron Ortiz, have played a significant role in furthering efforts to better the state’s education system.

In 2022, the Office of the Lt. Governor partnered with the Hunt Institute and legislative co-chairs to host the 2022 Legislative Education Forum to further the dialogue with policymakers and education leaders.

The Office of Lt. Governor once again partnered with the Hunt Institute in 2023 to host the Illinois Educator Diversity Summit. Lt. Governor Stratton spoke at the Summit and attended panels throughout the day, discussing strategies to diversify the teacher workforce in Illinois.

One key takeaway was that a diverse teacher workforce improves outcomes for all children. Students of color who have teachers of a similar race, ethnicity, identity, and/or lived experience are more likely to graduate high school, enroll in postsecondary education, and obtain a postsecondary degree.

In order to recruit and retain more educators of color, Illinois must change the narrative on how society views and values teacher. One proposal was to create a state-wide strategic plan to recruit and retain teachers of color with clearly defined goals and benchmarks to track progress. This could include state and district support for mentorship programs, covering certification costs, and recruiting teachers from paraprofessional ranks.

As these conversations continued, the Lt. Governor and her staff traveled to public colleges of education to gain insight from administrators, faculty, and students aspiring to become educators. Common themes in the barriers to pursuing a career in education were found across the state’s campuses, including: challenges in state licensing and testing for educators; lack of resources to reach and support Black, Brown and Indigenous men and other marginalized groups underrepresented in education; and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating teacher burnout in the profession.

The Ag Connects Us All Initiative was activated during the listening tour because it was evident that student hunger and food insecurity was a major barrier to completing education. 

From promoting teacher diversity to strengthening career pipelines, Lt. Governor Stratton understands education is vital to every resident of Illinois.