- With more than 1,000 teacher vacancies across the state, new Illinois state schools Superintendent Carmen Ayala is asking for an additional $2.4 million from the State Board of Education for a competitive grant process, which would incentivize individuals to come up with creative ways to hire and retain more teachers, Chalkbeat reports.
- So far, state legislators have considered a number of proposed solutions, including increasing the minimum teacher pay from $10,000 to $40,000, loosening salary caps, eliminating basic skills tests required for licensure and offering pay for student teaching. So far, though, none have gained enough traction to pass through the state legislature and reach the governor’s desk.
- One of the biggest needs, according to Robert Muller — dean of education at National Louis University — is changing the narrative to raise the level of respect for the teaching profession. One idea in a state board-commissioned policy report, which was published last fall, was to begin a widespread marketing campaign promoting the benefits of pursuing a career as a teacher in Illinois.
The teacher shortage, especially when it comes to certain subjects, is impacting most states across the nation, and state legislatures are struggling to deal with the issue — especially as teacher strikes continue. So far, many states' potential solutions look similar; for example, Indiana is among those looking for more funding to raise teacher pay. Others, including Illinois and Mississippi, have revamped the licensing process to make teaching certifications easier to obtain.
A key contributing factor to the shortage is the increase in teachers leaving the profession combined with fewer college students entering it. While some teachers leave because of financial concerns, many also leave because of the stress of the job, lack of support and respect, and the pressure of high-stakes testing. These are issues that also need to be addressed in conversations about retaining teachers.
On the other hand, fewer students are choosing to become educators. For one, issues facing teachers are widely publicized, causing feelings of disinterest and discouragement. A Phi Delta Kappa International poll released last year indicated that 54% of parents who responded said they would not want their child to become a teacher — an 11 percentage point increase from 2014. The main reasons cited were inadequate pay, student behavior and lack of discipline, along with lessening respect for the profession.
Even some teachers are dissuading students from entering the profession. And teacher strikes, though they may have some worthy goals in mind, draw attention to the dissatisfaction teachers have with their roles in society and can discourage support of public education, former U.S Secretary of Education William Bennet noted in an article last year.
Meanwhile, better and more stable pension plans, as well as student loan forgiveness programs, are among the other options states can consider in making teaching a more appealing and sustainable career path. Smaller perks, such as free or reduced childcare and gym memberships, are also things districts and schools can do — in addition to creating a better school climate — in working to attract and retain educators.