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State senators urge ISBE to accelerate its teacher shortage study

manar teacher 111517SPRINGFIELD – Three Senate education leaders are urging the governor’s administration to expedite its study of the statewide teacher shortage and report its findings to the General Assembly by March 1.

 In a Nov. 14 letter addressed to Illinois State Board of Education Chairman James Meeks, State Senators Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Kimberly A. Lightford and Andy Manar ask the board to accelerate its inquiry into the crisis so that lawmakers will have enough time to craft and pass legislation that will help to address the matter prior to next school year.

 The shortage has caused more than 2,000 current teaching positions to go unfilled statewide.

 “We commend you for the effort made thus far by the State Board to address teacher shortages and for further prioritizing the issue by initiating a year of inquiry on the subject,” the letter reads. “However, this is a crisis that deserves even more urgent attention and swift action to provide crucial support to students, administrators, and teachers.”

isbe letter 111417Bertino-Tarrant, a Shorewood Democrat and chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee, said solving the problem requires everyone to pull together.

 “The State Board of Education is doing the right thing by trying to find out what has gone wrong and what we need to do to get qualified teachers into classrooms more efficiently,” she said. “The sooner they can convey that information to the General Assembly, the sooner we can do our part to help correct this problem.”

According to a recent teacher shortage survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 60 percent of school districts reported trouble filling teaching positions and 75 percent had seen fewer qualified candidates than in previous years.

“This is a statewide issue that hurts the quality of education our children are receiving,” said Lightford (D-Maywood), assistant majority leader of the Senate and vice chairwoman of the Education Committee. “We need to move rapidly to find legislative solutions that attract and retain skilled teachers, and that starts with the study being conducted by the Board of Education.”

During a hearing of the Education Committee in Decatur Nov. 6, lawmakers were told that teachers around the country often skip over Illinois when they’re looking for a job because of low starting salaries, licensure difficulties and other issues.

Manar said schools in the 48th Senate District are among those most affected by the teacher shortage.

 

“We have schools all over central and southern Illinois relying on retired teachers and permanent substitutes to fill the void of qualified, professional teachers. And when no one answers that call, classrooms go dark. This is no way to educate children,” said Manar (D-Bunker Hill), a member of the Education Committee and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

“It is essential that lawmakers and ISBE work together quickly to identify the red tape that can be cut to help get good teachers into good jobs teaching great kids in Illinois schools.”