Illinois’ teacher shortage problem is affecting schools across the state, including most school districts in the local area.
Just a week ago, WLDS/WEAI News reported on the negotiations impasse between A-C Central Community School District 262 and the A-C Central Education Association. And a recent article in the State Journal Register reveals the scope of Illinois’ shortage of teachers in both Sangamon County and the rest of the state.
Jacksonville School District 117 is all too familiar with this issue according to Superintendent Steve Ptacek. He provides an example that shows how the state’s teacher shortage problem has grown over the past decade.
“Every year, with our teacher positions, we worry throughout the summer about actually being able to fill the positions with our candidates. I’ll give you an example – and we’re feeling this exact same thing – I was Principal of Centralia in 2008 and we had I think 68 applicants for one P.E. position. We just went to a job fair near Peoria public schools. Peoria public schools currently has four P.E. positions that it can’t fill. We’re talking about a nine-year difference between when I was at Centralia to now in Peoria, going from 68 applicants for one position to now they can’t fill four positions. We’re absolutely facing (teacher shortage issues),” says Ptacek.
Ptacek says the district would like to offer more elective options at certain schools, but are often unable to do so because of the shortage. Ultimately, Ptacek believes this is an issue that needs to be discussed amongst members of the Illinois General Assembly.
“We’re looking.at new elective opportunities we want to add to Jacksonville Middle School, and the number one concern we have is whether or not we’ll be able to find licensed individuals to be able to offer those electives. We are looking at adding computer science at the high school, and (finding teachers) is the number one concern. It’s an epidemic across the state that the Representatives and the Senators need to open up and understand that, in my personal opinion, we’ve got to do something to provide alternative educational opportunities, to get people from industry into the classroom that want to start their career as a teacher,” says Ptacek.
Speaking of state politicians, three Senators who work as education leaders within their roles with the state, sent a letter to Illinois State Board of Education Chairman James Meeks, urging the ISBE to accelerate its inquiry into the shortage problem.