The Illinois Association Of School Administrators says nearly 20,000 school workers - ranging from teachers to support staff - can expect to lose their jobs thanks to budget cuts. Teachers are on the front line of those losses.
With all the uncertainty, teaching, which was once considered stable career, is anything but.
Greg Bermont owned a real estate brokerage firm before deciding he wanted more meaning in his life. Now at 48-years old he's student teaching in the Chicago Public Schools system. In the coming weeks, he'll graduate and join the ranks of educators looking for work.
"Is it scary that 17,000 teachers are going to be hitting the streets? Of course it is. I think there's always going to be jobs for good teachers though. Maybe I'm idealistic but at my age I have no problem being idealistic. I think I've earned it," said Greg Bermont, aspiring teacher.
He'll need that idealism. Chicago Public Schools are so strapped for cash that 3,200 teachers are expected to be laid off this summer.
In many suburban districts, pink slips are becoming as common as the American flag in classrooms. The first to go are those without tenure or seniority.
Art teacher Jacqueline Bovit has been on the job just one year and fears elective programs like hers may be scrapped.
"It's my dream job so the thought of having to lose that position because of budget cuts makes me want to cry," said Jacqueline Bovit, Skinner Elementary art teacher.
At DePaul University's School of Education 83-percent of last year's class found fulltime jobs within six months of graduation. This year, these future teachers fear they'll have to go out of state.
"I would love to stay in Chicago but I don't know, it might not be possible. It's scary," said Katy Barrett, an aspiring teacher who would move if she had to.
"A lot of students who see teaching as a calling will go to states where there are jobs. We are going to lose that population which I think our kids deserve," said Paul Zionts, DePaul University School of Education.
Even as schools in the city and suburbs lay teachers off, some are still hiring teachers with specific skill sets such as science, multiple languages and special education.