SPRINGFIELD – A recent survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS) that logged responses from 591 of the state’s 853 districts, concluded that 77% of participating school districts reported a teacher shortage problem.
IARSS President Mark Klaisner called it tragic, saying there are a number of factors to blame; one of which being funding. Since Illinois school funding derives from property taxes, rural schools don’t have the property base to provide competitive salaries, he stated.
“It’s not uncommon that a metro area school district might be able to afford twice the salary of a rural district,” Klaisner said.
In addition, the state has restructured its debt to weigh heavily on the pension process creating insecurity, Klaisner said. Pension insecurity is a big deterrent to prospective teachers, he explained.
Now, the health crisis has created even more reasons for teachers to stay out of Illinois classrooms. Since the start of COVID-19, the survey found that 93% of school district respondents reported difficulties hiring substitute teachers.
As the pandemic forced more virtual interaction, the technological element of teaching went through the roof, Klaisner said. This deterred some from filling jobs, while fear of catching the virus kept others away.
Klaisner said they are talking to a number of organizations like Relay University and the Golden Apple Foundation to come up with ways Illinois can attract more teachers.