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Illinois schools continue to face teacher shortage

The clock is ticking for Illinois schools to fill over 1800 open teaching positions.

Posted: Jul 2, 2018 6:37 PM

PARIS, Ill. (WTHI) - Over 40 open teaching positions have been posted in the state of Illinois Monday alone! Obviously the clock is ticking for schools to fill those slots.

Two open teaching positions might not sound like a lot. But, with school starting up next month, Paris Schools Superintendent Jeremy Larson is feeling the pressure.

Larson says, "It definitely is a concern because we want to make sure that we are preparing our teachers before the first day of school, not waiting to employ them before the first day of school."

A new law signed by Governor Bruce Rauner is supposed to help curb the state's teacher shortage. Larson says he started noticing the shortage in Illinois about two years ago.

He says, "In the past, we had piles of applicants that we would go through and we had our choice and we would go through a long interview process interviewing everyone. We are now to the point where we get excited when we get an applicant who actually applies because there are so few people who are applying."

But for this school year, Larson is exploring all options to fill a middle school math position and a special education position.

Larson says, "I have actually been speaking to my own faculty to see who's willing to go back and obtain additional certifications to do movements around the district."

One of the biggest changes with this new law is the number of days someone can substitute teach. It's gone from 100 days to 120 days. It's a great start, but if you've got 180 days in the school year, minus 120 days someone can sub, that still leaves 60 days without someone in the classroom. Which a superintendent might have a hard time trying to fill.

Larson says, "It’s not a long-term solution. And so I feel like we have it covered for the first 120 days, but it's figuring out what we're going to do from that point on."

Larson thinks to end the shortage, lawmakers need to make it easier for licensed teachers to get qualified in more subjects.

Larson shares, "If I have a teacher who's been teaching 10, 15, 20 years, I think there should be some kind of value or expectation where we believe that teacher can then acquire some additional skills without going through all the additional coursework to switch into an additional content area."

Larson says there are alternative paths for teachers to help them switch their teaching focus. However, he says most of those programs are located in the Chicago area, making them out of reach for many Wabash Valley educators.

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