New law will allow schools more options for substitute teachers

(Illinois News Network) -- A new Illinois law will soon allow schools to use recruitment agencies to find substitute teachers.

The program opens the door for school districts to work with temp agencies to supplement the search for substitute teachers for elementary and secondary schools. It will be available Jan. 1.

“In some instances, when you can’t find a teacher to substitute in the absence of a homeroom teacher, sometimes you have other people in the building filling in,” said state Rep. La Shawn Ford, D-Chicago, one of the sponsors of the law. “The goal of this bill is to make sure we have qualified teachers in the classroom in the absence of the classroom teacher.”

Most school administrators will pull from the surrounding school districts to fill an open substitute teaching position, Ford said. But when that pool of teachers is tapped out, they are stuck. The new law will change that by allowing schools to pull from a larger group.

Rural schools especially are struggling to find teachers for “more technical areas” like sciences or foreign languages, said Ben Schwarm, the deputy executive director of the Illinois Association of School Boards.

“I think given the problem we’ve had [with] teacher shortages recently and especially with substitute teachers, any new tool the school board has can be helpful,” Schwarm said. “This certainly isn’t something that every school board is going to use, but if it’s a tool you can use to help out and fill your teaching staff, that’s a good thing.”

A 2018 survey from the Illinois Board of Education showed nearly 3,000 unfilled positions – including administrators, educators, and other school personnel – across the state.

“There is no danger in having this option available,” Ford said. “It is not the option that the school district has to use, but it is an option of last resort.”

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