The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) recently released a survey showing school districts in Illinois have 1,006 unfilled teacher positions this year. Teacher vacancies can mean larger class sizes or, in smaller school districts, classes that just aren’t offered. In addition, 74% of the vacancies are in majority-minority school districts, while 81% are in districts where a majority of students are low-income. The net result is that while all Illinois students’ educations suffer from issues related to teacher vacancies, those students who have been historically marginalized face the greatest barriers to a high-quality education and support.
The effect of these teacher shortages have been visualized by Advance Illinois, providing an interactive map and graphic of where and in what fields those vacancies are located. Overall, more than half of the state’s unfilled teacher positions are in Special Education and bilingual education. Regional differences can be seen as well, with downstate seeing vacancies in a broader range of subject areas than Chicago or the collar counties.
ISBE also provides some interactive information on all school vacancies, and the number of open positions for school support personnel is almost as high as that for teachers. These positions include jobs such as school nurses, guidance counselors, and school social workers.
There are various explanations for the shortage both here in Illinois and nationwide, including:
- A declining number of high school graduates
- Uncertainty regarding the state pension issue
- Changes in the position, with teachers often having to take up more of a social worker role
- Difficulties in obtaining a teaching license in Illinois
Since 1935, Illinois PTA has encouraged graduating seniors to go into teaching or other education-related fields (e.g., school nursing) through the Illinois PTA Scholarship Program. Over the years, this program has awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships. The scholarship fund is supported by purchased awards and through direct donations. If you’re struggling to find a way to recognize your child’s teacher this holiday season, consider making a donation in their name to the Illinois PTA Scholarship Fund.
For graduating seniors planning to go into teaching or an education-related field, the 2017-2018 Illinois PTA Scholarship application is online. The deadline to apply is February 15, 2018.