HUTSONVILLE, Ill. (WTHI) - School funding may be improving in the Land of Lincoln, but, that doesn't mean all the education woes are solved.
At Hutsonville Community Unit School District Number 1 in Illinois, a big problem persists. That is finding, and keeping quality teachers in the classroom. The issue is present throughout the state, and nation.
At the beginning of this year there were 1,136 open teaching positions in Illinois. As of Wednesday, 700 additional positions are open.
Governor Bruce Rauner recently signed a law making it easier for out-of-state teachers to get credentialed in Illinois.
But, that may not be enough for struggling schools to rebound from the teacher shortage.
The teacher shortage is hitting small schools like Hutsonville Community Unit School District #1 especially hard.
Hustonville Superintendent Julie Kraemer says "Every individual that is out there who is working or who has a college degree, guess who got them there?"
Teachers. Which Superintendent Kraemer says are hard to come by these days.
She shares, "Elementary position, you could guarantee that you had hundreds of applications for an elementary position. The last time, we had maybe 5 applications, 6."
Kraemer says a lot of factors are playing into why educators aren't as interested in getting into the field, especially in Illinois.
For one, Kraemer says her district isn’t able to pay teachers as much. On a grander scheme, she says teachers aren't staying as long, and the required testing and retirement are scaring new educators.
Kraemer says, "I think if they don't re-look and take a look at what they've done to damage that retirement system, that there's going to be some issues."
Kraemer says another problem she's facing is getting substitute teachers in her classrooms. Right now there is a bill at the state level that's supposed to help alleviate this issue, but Kraemer says time is quickly running out for the bill to have any impact on this school year.
She says, "It's May, May 2nd. I need that bill passed now. I need it passed now so it can help me get through the rest of this year, and then going into next year I know we'll have those extra days."
The bill raises the number of days a retired teacher can substitute from 100 days to 120 days. Because of how creative Kraemer has to get to fill positions, those days matter.
The superintendent says, "We have hired a very good candidate that we're excited about in science, but she doesn't graduate until December. So we will be trying to make sure that we have somebody here. Hopefully, we'll be able to have our retired science teacher come and work that first semester."
It’s some outside the box thinking Kraemer never thought she'd have to do to fill a classroom.
Kraemer says big changes still need to come at the state level.
Kraemer says, "We need them to act. We are going to have to have them look at, the certification, the testing that they require our student teachers to go into, the retirement changes that they've made. And say, realistically, 'How are we going to pull individuals into the state, to come here to teach, and more importantly maybe even, how are we going to get our kids to stay here and teach?'"
The only way that change can come about is with your help. Kraemer says it's important that you contact your local lawmakers and let them know what changes you think need to be made in education.