State senators urge ISBE to accelerate teacher shortage study

SPRINGFIELD — Three state Senators are urging Gov. Bruce Rauner’s administration to expedite its study of the statewide teacher shortage and report its findings to the General Assembly by March 1.

In a Nov. 14 letter addressed to Illinois State Board of Education Chairman James Meeks, state Sens. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, Kimberly A. Lightford and Andy Manar asked the board to accelerate its inquiry into the crisis so that lawmakers will have enough time to craft and pass legislation to help prior to next school year.

“We commend you for the effort made thus far by the State Board to address teacher shortages and for further prioritizing the issue by initiating a year of inquiry on the subject,” the letter from the Senators reads. “However, this is a crisis that deserves even more urgent attention and swift action to provide crucial support to students, administrators, and teachers.”

The shortage has caused more than 2,000 current teaching positions to go unfilled statewide, the senators noted.

Manar, D-Bunker Hill, said schools in the 48th Senate District are among those most affected by the teacher shortage.

“We have schools all over Central and Southern Illinois relying on retired teachers and permanent substitutes to fill the void of qualified, professional teachers. And when no one answers that call, classrooms go dark. This is no way to educate children,” Manar said.

Manar is a member of the Education Committee and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. He also led the state’s efforts to craft school funding reform to aid poorer districts.

Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, is chairwoman of the Senate Education Committee. Lightford, D-Maywood, is assistant majority leader of the Senate and vice chairwoman of the Education Committee.

According to a recent teacher shortage survey by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 60 percent of school districts reported trouble filling teaching positions and 75 percent had seen fewer qualified candidates than in previous years.

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