By DYLAN SMITH, NEWS3 Reporter
MACOMB, Illinois (NEWS3) – Illinois Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton visited Western Illinois University on April 18 as part of a tour that she said is focused on building a strong, diverse teacher pipeline during a nationwide teacher shortage.
“Our administration recognizes the vital role that teachers and our institutions of education play in communities across the state of Illinois,” Stratton said while addressing students, faculty and administration, on the barriers that aspiring and current teachers face. “Education is one of our top priorities in our state’s latest balanced budget.”
A survey by the National Education Association (NEA) found that 55 percent of educators want to leave the profession early.
Stratton cited mental health during a pandemic and the cost of education as primary challenges that future educators experienced.
Stratton said that the state is increasing its investment in education to $12 billion in 2023 and that $122 million will be put into MAP funding. Also, the state will double the amount of scholarship money available for higher education.
“We want all students who are from Illinois to stay in Illinois for their college experience and after they graduate,” Stratton said. “These future teachers will hopefully be right here in Illinois classrooms making sure that students get what they need.”
In February, Stratton launched #AgConnectsUsAll, a campaign that focuses on agricultural equity and food insecurity.
During her visit, Stratton also met with agricultural students and faculty to find out how the state could erase the negative stigma surrounding the ag-education field.
“We [education students] had teachers or other community members say that they didn’t think education was a good career to pursue,” Kinsey Tiemann, WIU senior ag-education major, said. “It was really awesome to have that dialogue [with Stratton] to see what the state’s going to do to combat that.”
While at WIU, Stratton went to the food pantry and campus farm. She stated that she is all ears when it comes to learning about any barriers that restrict students and community members from achieving success.
“We are all connected by agriculture and we all should have the ability to participate in the bounty that agriculture produces here in Illinois,” Stratton said.
WIU is the seventh stop, but not the last, on Stratton’s statewide school tour.