SPRINGFIELD – A teacher shortage continues to plague Illinois, especially its southern counties. A new survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools finds nearly 80 percent of districts have fewer teachers than they need.
The group's president, Mark Jontry, says there has been a big drop in the number of qualified teachers applying over the past five years, and it is especially hard to find substitute teachers. Teachers and administrators get pulled from their preparation work to cover for others who have called off, and often the substitute is not qualified to teach the class.
"We have areas where it's impossible for people to get a sub to come in, and so that kid probably in some instances isn't going to get any instruction that day,” says Jontry. “They may end up getting shuttled into a study hall or something like that. It's a lost day of opportunity for learning. "
Statewide, the lack of teachers is felt the most in bilingual education, foreign languages, school psychologists and computer and business classes. Two thirds of the superintendents in the southern counties report a significant drop in qualified candidates applying for teaching jobs.
Jontry's recommendations to address the problem include a tiered licensing system to encourage more substitute teacher candidates, decreased specialization requirements for teachers, expanded programs for developing new teachers, and streamlining the teacher licensing system.
He says it is one of the hot button issues for this legislative session in Springfield.
"There is a lot of interest around teacher shortage right now,” he says. “There have been bills that have been introduced, and so I think the likelihood of some type of action being passed this spring is very high."
Jontry says policymakers also need to support young teachers and encourage more young people to go on to college and study education as a career choice.
-- Veronica Carter, Public News Service