ROCKFORD (WREX) — There are over 4,000 unfilled school jobs currently in the state of Illinois, and education experts fear that shortage will only increase due to the pandemic.
"Things that were pre-existing challenges, things that teachers were having a hard time with before, or needing more resources before, now that’s all elevated," says University of Illinois Springfield Associate Professor Meghan Kessler.
According to new research published by Kessler and the university, educators say they are leaving the profession due to declining moral, inadequate resources and compromised safety during the pandemic.
"Over 70% of the teacher’s surveyed reported that they have a heavier work load and over 60% said they were more burned out than usual," says Kessler.
Another factor adding to the shortage: early retirements.
The Illinois Education Association reports a 50% increase of retirements for educators between July and September of 2020.
Which has school districts like Freeport concerned.
"Right now, the district has approximately 15 teaching positions filled with long-term subs," says Superintendent Anna Alvarado.
"I would bet you with this kind of life which is on and off, I’m remote, I’m in-person I’m both, I would not be surprised if we see an increased number of retirements. This is not just Freeport, but everywhere."
Since 2018, the state has seen an increasing number of shortages. Going up from 1,400 open teaching positions to nearly 2,000 in 2020.
While the damage of the pandemic on the profession may already be done, Kessler says there are proactive steps that can be taken to recruit and retain quality teachers.
"Moral support and trust in teachers and partnering with teachers can go a long way in helping teachers feel that their efforts are effective," says Kessler.
If not action is taking, she says the ones who will be hurt the most are the children.
"Teachers play this unique role in our communities, and they are more important than we might think. Without good, quality teachers, future generations of children will be the ones who suffer."
December 31, 2020 at 08:58PM