Illinois educators report shortage of teachers, applicants

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) -- School officials across Illinois are reporting more difficulty in finding qualified teachers and applicants to fill teaching jobs, with some districts canceling classes because of the problem.

An Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools survey showed 75 percent of school districts had fewer qualified candidates than in previous years, according to The (Springfield) State Journal-Register. The survey covers the 2015 to 2016 school year.

It also showed 16 percent of schools canceled classes or programs because of a teacher shortage in areas including special education, language arts and math. 

Illinois has more than 2,000 unfilled educator positions, including teachers, administrative staff and support staff, according to the Illinois State Board of Education.

"The licensed teachers are just not out there or in the pipeline," said Superintendent Tim Page in central Illinois. "It's not just a small school issue. It's across the board and across all subjects."

He said when it came time to hire a physical education teacher this year in A-C Central School District, the district only received a few applications for a job that's typically among the easier ones to fill. Page said school officials had to persuade a retiree to work a few days a week while other staff took on the rest.

Illinois educators cited several reasons for the shortage, including a state budget impasse that ended earlier this year and unfunded mandates. 

Sangamon County has more than 20 vacancies. Superintendent Jennifer Gill in Springfield said it's the first year the district doesn't have many candidates left over from the beginning of the year to hire during the second semester.

"It's a good time to go into teaching because there are going to be a lot of openings," she said.