Senator Manar of Bunker Hill, two other Senators pen letter to ISBE on teacher shortage

By Gary Scott on November 17, 2017 at 2:44pm

The state of Illinois’ lack of teachers has been covered in various ways over the past week or so.

An article in the State Journal Register last week showed that more than two-thousand open teaching positions sat vacant at the start of the school year, with 21 of those exactly 2,013 openings being in Sangamon County.

Even earlier this week, after speaking with District 117 Superintendent Steve Ptacek, he says that teacher shortage is an issue that the local district faces year after year. Ptacek also provided an anecdote revealing how the issue has grown over the past decade, saying that while schools struggle to fill positions for P.E. teachers, ten years ago, the same schools would likely have between 50 and 100 candidates.

In our talk with Ptacek, the Superintendent also brought up the importance of state politicians not only being aware of the issue, but also making efforts to combat it. And Ptacek’s request for political involvement may have been granted, as three Illinois Senators, including Bunker Hill-based Senator Andy Manar, penned a letter to the Illinois State Board of Education, urging the organization to accelerate its inquiry into the matter in order for actual change to take place.

The letter, addressed to Illinois State Board of Education Chairman James T. Meeks, was written by Manar, and fellow Senators Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant and Kimberly Lightford.

Senator Manar spells out some of what is in that letter, saying that they’re requesting that the State Board of Education accelerate their study.

“We have a full-fledged crisis on our hands right now, especially in downstate Illinois. The State Board of Education said they wanted to spend a year studying that issue. My colleagues and I think that that is unnecessary, we think they can wrap up their work by March 1st, and that will allow us, what I think is plenty of time, to address this issue with some reform legislation during the spring session,” Manar explains.

While the letter acknowledges the fact that Illinois’ teacher shortage crisis isn’t specific to any geographic region, and effects districts on both ends of the socioeconomic spectrum, Manar says downstate Illinois is perhaps being hit the hardest.

“There are empty classrooms that don’t have a full-time, permanent teacher all over downstate Illinois, small rural districts where they are having incredible difficulties filling positions, even for Physical Education, today, which, a couple of years ago was completely unheard of. I think we have a full-fledged crisis on our hands in downstate Illinois, and I think it’s time that the bureaucrats in Springfield pay attention to it. That’s why we’re asking the state board to wrap up their study quickly. We don’t need to spend a lot of time studying the issue, I think we need to act decisively in the coming spring session,” says Manar.

Manar wants to make it clear that he and his fellow Senators encourage the idea of conducting research on the issue. However, Manar believes that many of the problems are already apparent, and that a year-long study isn’t necessary.

“We don’t think (the research) should last a year, we think they should wrap it up by March 1st. That’ll give us a few months during the spring legislative session to come up with ideas and a response plan. We’ve been gathering those ideas already, we’re getting incredibly amounts of input from teachers and from administrators from across downstate Illinois. I think it’s time we deal with this, because if we wait a year, we’re going to have more empty classrooms and kids, especially kids is small towns, deserve better, and I think it’s up to the state government to get this right,” Manar explains.

The spring veto session for the Illinois Senate begins March 1st, and then continues the following week, March 6th through 8th.