Statewide teacher shortage creates tough summer months in school district

By Kayleigh Rahn
The first bell of the 2017-2018 school year will sound in just under two weeks. And while the Tuscola Community Unit School District was able to fill nearly every open instructional position, in the past two years administrators across the state have experienced a teacher shortage.

Fewer students are choosing education as their majors of choice leading to fewer teachers heading into the workforce each year, which has resulted in a quick depletion of available candidates to fill open classrooms across the state. School districts around Illinois say recruiting and retaining teachers has become a growing problem after a 2016 survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Education Superintendents revealed about 60 percent of districts in the state have staffing issues.

As of the end of July, the Illinois State Board of Education’s Division Administrator for Educator Effectiveness, said the state is about 1,000 teachers short to start the 2017-2018 school year.

“It’s hard for people to understand too, because I’ve had conversations with retired teachers or older teachers who have been confident the district would find someone,” Tuscola schools superintendent Michael Smith said. “Well, five years ago you did find someone, now it may not always work out. I thought we were two or three years away and all of the sudden it hit this summer.”

In the summer of 2016, the number of applications coming in began to dwindle with about eight to 12 per position when in some cases in the past the district would see 50 and up to 100 for certain positions, such as P.E.

“But there was still enough to work with,” Smith said about last year. “I always tell myself it doesn’t matter how many people apply, you just need one really good one. But overnight it was gone.”

The final position to fill this year is the Food and Consumer Sciences teacher at the high school, a specialty position, which is a realm of education that Smith says is seeing a more exaggerated tightening.

The full story can be found in the Aug. 9, 2017, edition of The Tuscola Journal.