Shortage of afterschool staff causing 'crisis' in Illinois

Illinois school support staff are sounding the alarm ahead of this school year over the shortage of afterschool care workers.

The Afterschool for Children and Teens Coalition held a virtual town hall Wednesday to discuss what they're calling a "crisis."

The group says the Covid-19 pandemic forced afterschool workers out of jobs and now programs can't hire enough staff back to fill vital roles.


They are encouraging afterschool program providers to increase staff pay and are proposing a student loan forgiveness program for adults interested in afterschool care as a career.

"When we think about what happened in Highland Park and Uvalde, Texas, and unfortunately in previous instances, what we're seeing are youths that are disconnected, that have not been included, right? That don't have a sense of belonging. And I feel the workforce and afterschool programs are absolutely critical in having a trusted adult, healthy relationships between staff and students, between students, between staff," said Jeffrey Aranowski, Executive Director of the Illinois State Board of Education.

At the end of last year, a survey found an all-time high of 24.5 million children were unable to access an afterschool program. Barriers included cost and long wait lists.