Illinois officials zero in on shortages of special education, bilingual teachers

Chicago teachers on strike

SPRINGFIELD (Illinois News Network) — After a year of surveys and panel discussions, the Illinois State Board of Education found that teachers want what workers everywhere want: More money and job security.

The State Board of Education recently released a report about the best ways to ease the state’s teacher shortage. State officials found that there is a statewide shortage of teachers. The need is acute for special education and bilingual educators in rural and poor school districts.

The Board of Education is proposing programs to attract more young people to the teaching profession and making it easier to become a teacher in the state.

Spokeswoman Jaclyn Matthews said the board found that most of the vacancies are in rural and poor urban areas and are primarily for two types of teachers.

“About half of the vacancies are in bilingual education and special education,” she said. “A lot of those are in rural districts and high-poverty urban districts.”

The report continued to bang the drum for more funding to be sent to districts, something that raised eyebrows in previous announcements.

“We have a statewide crisis, and now we have a suite of research-backed and targeted solutions.,” state superintendent Tony Smith said. “Getting serious about solving the teacher shortage crisis means increasing investments in Illinois’ underfunded school districts, so they can implement proven teacher leadership, mentorship, and pipeline models.”

Illinois spends more than $13,000 per student per year, more than any other state in the Midwest.

Democrats have pushed for a required minimum salary of $40,000 per year for teachers but Gov. Bruce Rauner vetoed the bill, saying it would result in a significant unfunded mandate that would disproportionately affect rural schools.

The board found that the number of candidates enrolling in and completing teacher preparation programs in Illinois decreased by 53 percent between 2010 and 2016.

The board is asking for feedback on the plan to be sent to teachillinois@isbe.net.