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Rep. Jeff Keicher answers questions from Sycamore School Board about mental health, safety and teachers – Shaw Local


SYCAMORE — Illinois House Rep. Jeff Keicher, R-Sycamore, this week answered questions from Sycamore School Board members about youth mental health and school safety amid a mass shooting in Texas where 19 students and two teachers were murdered.

During his 45-minute report, Keicher updated board members on topics that were discussed in the Illinois House of Representatives. The House adjourned for the summer on April 8. While Keicher’s report focused heavily on education, he was asked what additional legislation should stem from the shooting.

Board member Julenne Davey asked Keicher what was being done for children’s mental health after the Uvalde, Texas shooting at Robb Elementary School. The board meeting was held on Tuesday, the same day of the shooting.

“What are you doing to make things better for our kids because obviously that’s not happening right now,” Davey asked.

Keicher responded that the Illinois legislature is considering improving mental health programs in schools across the state.

“There was a mental health pilot program that was introduced … to put social workers in the classrooms,” Keicher said.

Board member Eric Jones asked Keicher what could be done to attract teachers to Illinois and address retirement issues in the future.

“What is being done at the state level to facilitate licensing?” Jones asked Keicher.

Keicher responded that the state is obligated to pay agreed pensions.

“Our retirement obligations that we have made as a state to teachers, educators, first responders, firefighters, police officers, this is a sacred oath that the government has sworn to them in perpetuity,” Keicher said. . “We can’t go back and change that, it’s in our constitution. We need to own and step up.

Keicher said the state needs to grow its economy.

“We are still the lowest bond state ever,” he said. “We always pay higher interest on the debts we take on because we don’t take serious considerations.”

Keicher said the state expects a decrease in Illinois’ high school graduating student population.

“So that natural population of people who come into our system is shrinking, so we’re already seeing some of that, and we’re seeing some of that in the workforce,” he said.

To attract new teachers to Illinois, Keicher recommended focusing and expanding two scholarship programs: The Golden Apple and Yours.

“I think one element is proper training, proper support, making sure it’s there, and scholarship programs that will partially forgive the dollars they incur for teacher certification,” Keicher said. . “We also passed a minimum wage requirement for teachers two years ago. We hope it also has an attractive nature.

Keicher also said it was important to “make sure the incentives are there.”

“Without entry salaries, we don’t get the best and brightest, we don’t attract enough people,” Keicher said. “So we have to provide enough initial opportunities for people to show up. I think that’s how you help solve it. You have to fix the pension, you have to fix the attractiveness. You need to get that support network.

Keicher also advocated for teacher diversity.

“We need to make sure that we show children in the classroom teachers who look like them, act like them and have had the same life experiences as them so that they are comfortable in the classroom,” a- he declared.

Board Chairman Jim Dombeck asked Keicher what could be done to get the state legislature to take away decision-making rights from local school boards and enforce more mandates.

“I strongly believe that administration, the board, parents and educators should be able to decide what is best for their students,” Keicher said. “When we allow that local creativity, when we don’t put so many rules around it, we allow educators, administrators, parents, board members to thrive with creative solutions.”

Keicher said he was optimistic about the state’s future.

“Illinois is worth fighting for,” he said. “This is the best time to be alive in human history.”

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