(The Center Square) – As school districts across Illinois prepare to welcome back students, a school official is raising concerns regarding a lack of personnel.
The Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools conducted an Educator Shortage study and found that 76% of school districts reported problems with staffing shortages.
“At first it was a teacher shortage. Then there was a teacher shortage crisis. Then it was a teacher shortage catastrophe, and it just escalates,” IARSS President Mark Klaisner said.
Klaisner said some downstate districts are trying to come up with ways to open their schools despite a lack of educators.
“In a rural area, it might be better to put kids on buses and transport them to the districts next door,” said Klaisner. “I never imagined that we would have these kinds of conversations.”
He said other districts are filing the gaps with teachers who aren’t fully certified.
The Illinois General Assembly passed legislation to address teacher shortages, including increased pay and retention bonuses and a measure to increase the number of days a substitute teacher can stay in the classroom.
“Some of these measures I think are tremendously helpful and I applaud the state board for opening up avenues that can get people into the profession. The problem is, we have to find the people who are excited about being teachers,” said Klaisner.
Klaisner said he is also hearing from school districts around the state that learning loss from the pandemic is still prevalent.
“People are still saying from last year anecdotally that kids are really struggling and it’s hard for them to close the gap,” said Klaisner.
There are 852 school districts in Illinois, the third highest total in the country behind only California and Texas.