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Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton on Thursday visited the University of Illinois Springfield to meet with students and university staff about education and the ongoing teacher shortages around the state. 

Teacher shortages have been the center of debate among Illinois lawmakers recently, with a number of proposals making their way through the state legislature, from developing new pipeline programs to changing the regulations surrounding substitutes. 

Last week, the House passed a bill from Rep. Sue Scherer, D-Decatur, that would create a tuition reimbursement program for teachers who attend public colleges.  

The lieutenant governor said she's hoping to learn more about the issue on a statewide tour of public colleges. 

The Diverse Workforce Pipeline program is a partnership between UIS and Springfield District 186 to increase the number of "diverse" teachers in classrooms. The program is set up to pay students' tuition, fees and books fully funded by the district with pandemic-related emergency funding from the federal government. 

UIS also operates the Prairie Area Teaching Initiative, a recruitment and scholarship program aimed at getting local students interested in pursuing education careers.  

"Although we have many diverse students in that program, it's focused on first-generation college students," said Christie Magoulias, the director of UIS' school of education. "Many times, that comes from our rural schools." 

Magoulias said the program often struggles to find applicants. 

This article appeared in The State Journal-Register on March 10, 2022.

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