Illinois Teacher Shortage: Districts Find Substitute Teachers as Temporary Fix; special education, most wanted bilingual teachers

JOLIET, Ill. (WLS) — The current teacher shortage in Illinois is a major concern for all Chicago-area districts as they kick off the new school year.

Area superintendents say the main problem they face is that they simply don’t have enough qualified people to apply for the positions they have opened, most of whom appear to be specialist, bilingual, bilingual teachers. .

About 35,000 students have returned to class in the U-46 school district, the second largest in the state, including Elgin as well as 10 other surrounding communities. But even if the students are starting to shed the cobwebs of the summer, many will be taught by replacements, for now.

“We still have about 100 teaching vacancies,” the U-46 district superintendent said. said Tony Sanders. “We are able to fill them. We have retirees. We have long-term replacements. We have a lot of people to replace to fill those roles.”

Most U-46 vacancies are for bilingual teachers and special education.

It’s a similar story in Joliet Public School District 86, where students will be welcomed Wednesday. They are still short of about 20 full-time teachers, and the Illinois State Board of Education will only allow districts to use contractors for 30 days at a time in a single classroom. .

“We may be close to hiring someone, but not quite, but we don’t want to mix up the teachers because it’s hard on the students,” District 86 superintendent Therese said. Rouse. “So we would like to see those numbers increased to 60-90 days at least so that we have a bit more wiggle room.”

But submarines are not a permanent solution. And that, according to these two superintendents, is to attract more people into the profession.

“There are fewer and fewer people entering university programs to become teachers and it’s a national crisis at this point,” Rouse said.

“The board has set aside millions of dollars for this tuition reimbursement trying to get people to leave their current jobs and become teachers,” Sanders said. “It’s a great way to not only earn a living, but also make a difference in children’s lives.”

According to a study by the Illinois State Board of Education, the current shortage is disproportionately impacting chronically struggling schools, underfunded schools, and schools serving low-income communities, reinforcing the need for equity as measures continue to be taken to increase the number of teachers. pipeline in the state.

Full statement from the Illinois State Board of Education

Thanks for your patience. Like many states across the country, Illinois is currently experiencing a teacher shortage. In hopes of better understanding this shortage, the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) conducted an analysis to understand the specific students and communities most impacted by teacher vacancies. This analysis found that the current shortage is having a disproportionate impact on chronically struggling schools, underfunded schools, and schools serving low-income communities, as well as on specific subjects including special education and education. bilingual. The data reinforces the importance of equity as a driving strategy to continue to build the supply of teachers in Illinois.

To help address the shortage of substitute teachers, ISBE has implemented changes to expand the supply of substitute teachers. For example, in addition to anyone with a bachelor’s degree, we now allow individuals enrolled in an Illinois-approved educator preparation program who have completed 90 hours of coursework per semester to substitute instruction from 1st January 2023. We have also waived the $25 request. fees during public health emergencies, such as the current covid-19 pandemic, so that individuals can obtain an outsourcing license completely free of charge. Short-term substitutes can also teach for up to 15 consecutive days, instead of the usual five, up to 120 days for the 2022-23 school year.

The state has also used several other strategic initiatives, which have proven effective in increasing the teaching workforce, increasing enrollment in educator preparation programs, and increasing teacher retention rates. These initiatives include CTE Education Career Pathways Grants that allow current high school students to prepare for college-level teacher preparation programs, Teacher Residency Grants that improve the preparation and retention of new educators by onboarding applicants in a school for a full year, the teacher mentorship program that pairs novice teachers with on-site mentors and virtual instructional coaches to guide them through their early years of teaching, adding Educators Rising as career and technical student organization to provide leadership opportunities for future high school teachers, short-term endorsements that increase access to teacher preparation programs by allowing candidates to earn their license while teaching, grants to support the retention of special education teachers and obtaining a bilingual educator license, and affinity groups for teachers of color to increase retention rates.

Through these initiatives, and others, the teaching staff in Illinois has grown year-over-year since 2018, adding more than 5,000 new teachers to the profession. The state also saw an 11% increase in enrollment in educator preparation programs between 2019 and 2020, and last year teacher retention rates reached more than 87%, the highest since 2014.

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