Illinois schools have to cover more than 16,000 teacher absences every week and the state’s substitute teacher shortage is exacerbating the problem, according to a survey of nearly 400 districts released on Tuesday. On any given school day, the findings showed, about 600 K-12 classrooms don’t have a teacher to lead them.
The survey was conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools. Chicago Public Schools, the state’s largest district, did not participate in the survey.
Association president Jeff Vose called the survey results “sobering” and said that the state needs to find more ways to bolster the ranks of back-up teachers.
“Now that we know this is a significant problem in our schools, we need to work to make it easier for qualified people to become substitute teachers,” he said in a statement, referring to the state’s strict licensing requirements and costly licensing fees.
Earlier this month, the state took steps to address the substitute teacher shortage. On January 6, Governor Bruce Rauner signed legislation that aims to attract more candidates by allowing the state’s board of education to grant licenses to teachers with comparable out-of-state qualifications. It also reduces substitute licensing fees from $200 to $150, enables those with four-year degrees in any subject to apply, and makes returning to the classroom part-time easier for retirees.