GLASFORD, Ill. (WMBD) – A new survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools shows a teacher shortage affecting many Illinois school districts is growing.

Teacher positions are remaining open for extended periods of time, but there are not enough candidates to fill them. Illini Bluffs superintendent Dr. Roger Alvey said this has been an issue for years.

“We used to get 130 applicants, for example, for elementary education positions. We’re lucky to get three now,” Alvey said.

Illini Bluffs is not alone. A recent survey of 663 districts by IARSS, representing 78% of the state’s public schools showed:

  • 88% of surveyed districts believe they have a teacher shortage problem.
  • 96% of surveyed districts believe they have a substitute teacher shortage issue.
  • School districts reported 17% of their open teacher positions were either unfilled or filled with someone less than qualified for the position.
  • 412 classes were canceled and 385 were transitioned to online instruction because of shortage issues in schools.

“We’ve had fewer people going into the profession. You combine that with the effects of the pandemic, you have educators that are burned out and leaving the profession,” said Mark Jontry, Regional Office of Education #17 superintendent.

To fill classrooms, Alvey said in some cases staff have been asked to step outside their normal roles. Illini Bluffs is also looking at ways to get in front of the issue.

“We have really gone out of our way to find student-teachers when we know there’s going to be a retirement,” Alvey said.

Jontry said he expects more districts to “grow their own”.

“They identify their own students who are interested in the profession, and they’re going to potentially help offset some of their educational costs whether it’s tuition or reimbursement in exchange for a guarantee to come and work for the district for a period of time,” he said.

As current teachers face burnout, Jontry said it is students that are impacted as well.

“It harms what we’re potentially going to be doing in terms of delivering quality to our kids,” Jontry said.

The Golden Apple Foundation is an Illinois non-profit that works with districts and institutions across the state to prepare individuals to become teachers in Illinois’ neediest schools. Golden Apple offers two programs known as Scholars and Accelerators.

The president of Golden Apple, Alan Mather, said he does anticipate that their programs will be part of the solution.

“We recruit people from their communities where they typically return to serve. So we want people to stay in their communities, strengthen their communities, by teaching in their communities,” said Alan Mather, president of Golden Apple Foundation.

In their survey, the IARSS made policy recommendations to address the shortage including:

  • Investing in all parts of the educator pipeline.
  • Address affordability for aspiring educators.
  • Prioritize strategies that support current educator labor market to prevent attrition.
  • Consider short-term strategies for filing the educator pipeline in the immediate future.