IL teacher shortage, worsened by COVID-19 pandemic, will likely grow in next 2 years: study

Teacher burnout a problem, Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents official says
CHICAGO (WLS) -- Teachers are in short supply in Illinois.

Right now, there are more than 2,000 open positions at districts across the state.

"As a teacher, you are always trying to meet the needs of your students and the needs are greater than ever before, so a lot of teachers are feeing inadequate," said Donna Schawn, who teaches at Maine South High School.

Schawn has been a science teacher for 27 years. She has no plans to retire soon, but she's not surprised by how many of her colleagues have recently left the profession.

While a teacher shortage has been on the horizon for years, COVID has made the problem worse. The Illinois Association of Superintendents of Schools survey found close to 90% of the state's school districts are facing a teacher shortage.

Chicago Public Schools, the state's largest district, is trying to close the gap by paying substitutes more money.

RELATED: Substitute teacher shortage has Chicago Public Schools principals getting creative to cover classes

Maine Township High School District 207 Supt. Ken Wallace said relaxing rules on how many hours retired teachers can work will also help.

"I think those can be relaxed tomorrow and right there you can open up a pool of candidates that can help immediately," he said.

But Wallace also said the shortage must be addressed for the long term.

"We have to grow our own, we have to have pipelines that start in our schools, we have to have experiences for our students," he said.

Though its own career program, District 207 has identified students interested in teaching and has provided real life experience, encouragement and support. Besides pipelines in high schools, Wallace said the teaching shortage can also be solved if the state streamlines the bureaucratic licensing process for people who what to change careers by becoming teachers.

Mark Klaisner, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents, joined ABC7 Chicago Wednesday to talk about it.

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Right now, there are more than 2,000 open positions at districts across the state.

For the fifth year in a row, Illinois is reporting a teacher shortage crisis that is growing and only being made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent study found Illinois school districts report the teacher shortage problem has worsened from last year in virtually all major areas: 88% of schools say they have a teacher shortage problem and 93% of districts believe the shortage will grow the next two academic years.

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