Last October, the State Board of Education showed nearly 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs and nearly 5,000 total education positions.
Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. He says it’s likely the pandemic will worsen Illinois’ teacher shortage.
“I honestly think that we're going to have some retirements that we didn't plan on,” he said. “They're going to decide it's not worth the risk.”
Nationwide, one in every five public school teachers is 55 or older.
It’s still unclear whether students will go back to in-person classrooms in the fall. Schools wouldn’t be able to reopen until Phase 4 of Governor J.B. Pritzker’s reopening plan. And, even then, the plan calls for groups of 50 or fewer.
Sondgeroth says when in-person classes resume, there’ll be parents who don’t think it’s safe to send their kids.
For those families, he says they’ll have to find ways to continue e-learning.
Gov. Pritzker issued an executive order try to make sure coronavirus doesn’t intensify the situation.
The order cuts back licensing requirements for graduating teachers entering the workforce this summer.
Kathi Griffin is the president of the Illinois Education Association. She said, "I think that we need to put together a plan to really be able to mentor those new teachers."
Sondgeroth says they’re working on those mentoring programs in his region.
Griffin says younger teachers tend to more be adept to technology, but it’ll be difficult to establish relationships with students online.
Illinois is now also allowing teachers to count time spent adapting to e-learning towards their own license renewals.
She says the union is advocating to get federal stimulus money for State education budgets and technology.
She’s concerned that COVID-19 is highlighting the digital divide of those who do and don’t have internet access and devices.