Illinois School Districts Struggling To Find Qualified Teachers


School districts around the state are having problems filling teaching positions with qualified educators.

A new survey found about 3/4 of districts in Central Illinois are having an issue.

Some factors impacting the candidate pool include teachers leaving the state, fewer students enrolling in teacher-training programs and some out-of-state educators can’t relocate here because of Illinois’ mandates.

Sarah Dowis has been teaching for eight years and says it has changed over the years.

“Absolutely, I think it’s a little bit harder now, just in general. Finances are hard. It’s a big issue.”

The Teacher Shortage Survey, by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, found about 75% of Central Illinois districts are having issues hiring qualified candidates. But, the problem is not affecting every district equally.

“We do see that in the state of Illinois, and I think nationally, you’re seeing a trend of less candidates going into the field of education.”

Ball Chatham Superintendent Douglas Wood says his district is ahead of the curve with hiring, but says he understands why others may not be up to par.

“You see districts that are laying off or reductions aren’t forced. That may make you shy away from the profession.”

Dowis says one of the big issues she sees is standards in the state. It’s getting tougher on future teachers.

“I can see it. I see it with interns that are trying to come here. The stress, I know the expectations are getting higher and higher for our kids.”

It’s driving some out of the classroom and into other professions.

“Expectations and the hoops you have to jump through to become a teacher have changed, even since I was in college six years ago.”

The state is looking to make a change. This year, legislation will streamline the licensing process, encouraging more out-of-state candidates to apply for jobs.

“That’s also opening up opportunities to get your foot in the door.”

Opportunities that can be life-changing.

“I love teaching.”

Superintendents say one challenge with the streamlining process will be finding a balance between set standards and not changing the certification process.

The survey was completed by 62% of districts in the state. 16% had to cancel programs or classes because of teacher shortages. 89% noticed fewer qualified candidates. 40% reported applicants were worse than previous years.

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