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Survey Expected To Document Dire Teacher Shortage

Mark Klaisner is president of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents
West Cook 40
Mark Klaisner is president of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents

Illinois had about 4,000 unfilled school jobs open last fall, and that shortage is expected to be greater this year because of the pandemic. 

The information comes from a survey of school superintendents conducted in 2019. School staff in that count include teachers and paraprofessionals, such as aides,  and administrators. Data for a new survey will be collected in September said Mark Klaisner, the President of the Illinois Association of Regional School Superintendents.

“We're very, very concerned that teacher pipeline is not what it needs to be. And the teacher shortage is at  a catastrophic level,” he said.

Klaisner says he recognizes that senior teachers may opt for retirement rather than work in classrooms where they risk infection.

Meanwhile, about 300 potential student teachers are still without placements this year as a consequence of the coronavirus pandemic. That’s what universities have reported to the Association of Illinois Regional Superintendents, said Klaisner. That organization in September will sponsor a virtual speed dating-like program to match up students with districts.

He said, “We've come up with a system where we think we can successfully place all 300 of these students somewhere around the state to make sure they graduate.”


Some districts may not have had slots open because of changes in light of COVID-19. But Klaisner says through remote learning, it would be possible for a student teacher in downstate Illinois to work in Chicago.

The addition of those 300 student teachers will have a positive impact on the teacher population, he said.  

Copyright 2021 NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS. To see more, visit NPR Illinois | 91.9 UIS.

Maureen Foertsch McKinney is the NPR Illinois News Editor and a lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and is curator of the Equity blog. Maureen joined the staff in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.