Lawmakers look to fill Illinois’ substitute teacher shortage

The problem is worse in rural areas and the southern part of the state.

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — It is no secret that Illinois has a teacher shortage.

A recent report from the Illinois Association of Superintendents of Schools says more than 90 percent of schools had trouble last year finding a teacher or a substitute teacher.

The study revealed that superintendents believe that bilingual teachers, Spanish teachers, special education teachers, nurses, and school psychologists were the most difficult positions to fill.

When asked about the qualifications of the teachers who did apply 65% of the superintendents believe that they have received significantly fewer qualified teacher applicants than five years ago and 54% believe that availability of substitute teachers was “significantly worse” for the 2017-2018 school year than for previous years.

There are a handful of plans at the statehouse this spring that’d fill the need. One would allow college students who are studying to be a teacher, and who have at least three years on campus, to get a substitute teaching license.

Ben Schwarm with the Illinois Association of School Boards said that could help.

“These are students who are in the education college, they’ve already passed their test,” Schwarm said. “They have enough hours to start student teaching. So I think there is a certain amount here that makes sense.”

But Schwarm said Illinois is going to have to solve a bigger problem.

“When the state changed the teacher licensing process, when the state changed some of the requirements to even get into a college of education, you have to take a test and pay money before you’re even accepted,” Schwarm said. “There are some things on the front end that we think might be barriers.”

Schwarm said while almost every school needs teachers, the needs are worse the further away from the Chicago suburbs that you get.