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Education

State and local lawmakers working to fix teacher shortage in Illinois

Teacher shortage in Illinois
Benjy Jeffords
/
WSIU
88% of Illinois school districts are experiencing a teacher shortage

Across the state of Illinois schools are facing a teacher shortage crisis.

This shortage has leaders in higher education and lawmakers at the state and local level working together to address the situation.

A recent study published by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents reports 88% of Illinois schools are experiencing a teacher shortage.

The shortage has been increasing over the last few years and two main factors include teachers taking early retirement and a decline in students pursuing a degree in education.

Lt. Governor Juliana Stratton says she's touring every higher learning institution in the state to see how the state can better support the next generation of teachers.

“We don't know what the full solutions are yet. I'm going to all of these campuses so that I can hear directly from the students, as well as the deans of the schools of education. And then we'll be able to come back and really kind of think about what did we hear and what can we do as a state? And what can our administration do working in conjunction with the General Assembly members to make this state the best state in the nation to raise children? And part of that is making sure that our education system is strong.”

Stratton says the state has already been proactive at addressing the needs of Illinois teachers.

“I think it's most important that we don't just listen and then say, well, that was nice to hear. It's important that we listen and then act. We've already done a lot in our administration through Governor Pritzker's leadership to support our educators. We have raised the minimum salaries for teachers. We are continuing to invest in the Minority Teachers Scholarship Program and increasing, as you heard Governor Pritzker say in the last week's budget address, increasing map grants.”

Stratton says an obstacle she keeps hearing about is students having trouble fulfilling their requirements for school and life at home.

“There are many students that don't continue in their education because their resources are limited, their students that in addition to, you know, what they're doing in the classroom, they have to work and there are other things that they need to do to make sure that they support their families.”

Senator Dale Fowler says he’ll work with the General Assembly to help build up incentives for students studying education.

“Education is a top priority. We need more students going into the field of education. We're excited that they are. We see the trend moving that direction and we want to keep that trend going. We will increase the salaries. You know, we're doing everything to enhance the students to be able to do that.”

Fowler says Senate Bill 3201 was introduced a little over a month ago and it allows retired teachers to substitute up to 140 days each school year, which is an increase of 20 days per year.

“I talk with my superintendents throughout the district continuously, but they seem to be encouraged. They have the teacher shortage. They have the substitute teacher shortage. You know, it's more difficult now, substitute teachers. That's the reason why we're extending the amount of days a teacher can substitute and not affect their pension to be able to give some relief to these students in relief to these superintendents in the school districts.”

Senator Fowler says even before the pandemic might have made students apprehensive about going into the education field, Illinois was trying to handle other obstacles.

“There's been a lot of students in the last few years that have left the state of Illinois. You know, we went through the budget impasse, we went through those challenges and that really hurt. That was devastating to the state of Illinois. We're through that. We're seeing our revenues enhanced. We're seeing more money going into the field of education, and that's encouraging to be able to give these grants to the children to the kids, to the students, the high school students.”

Senator Fowler says college recruiters are using some new approaches to motivate students to seek a degree in education.

“They're also doing wanting to get into the lower grades that, you know, the junior highs and the elementary schools and really talk about the how the wow factor of becoming an educator. You know, we are we all what we are today because of those that taught us. And we want to not want them to know that you're that generation that's going to teach these children.”

Senator Fowler says more and more high school students in the region are choosing to pursue a college degree in Southern Illinois.

“I know with my student advisory council that I host each and every year this last we hosted here at SIU just a couple of months ago, and I had more students of the 70 students within all the all the high schools within my district. that have choose to go to SIU Carbondale and to go into the field of education. So that's promising.”

Stratton says she’ll continue working to build pipeline of educators and students flowing through universities in the state for the next generation of students.

“I think first and foremost, the thing that I'm taking away is that our future is bright. We have some incredibly passionate young people who are interested in education, who are the future teachers in these classrooms who are dedicated to making sure that they build these bright minds and really not just seeing education as a job, but as a career that can really help build communities. And that's something that's incredibly important in this region.”

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