(The Center Square) – As hundreds of Illinois school districts return to in-person or remote instruction this fall, many will encounter challenges in hiring substitute teachers.
There has been a shortage the past few years, and Mark Klaisner, president of the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, expects it to continue.
“A year ago we found 4,200 unfilled positions in teachers, para-pros and administrators, and if that number was 4,200 last year, this year I only anticipate it being worse,” Klaisner said.
Some districts are having to raise the daily pay for substitutes and assistants, like Maine Township, which added $30 to the usual daily pay. Klaisner said efforts are also being made to make it easier to acquire a license.
“We have been authorized to offer short-term substitute teaching licenses and we have a set training that we can train people in my office in 2 and a half to 3 hours,” Klaisner said.
To address the shortage, Illinois law allows retired teachers to return and work for up to 120 days or 600 hours without jeopardizing their pension benefits. The limit is designed to prevent retirees from “double-dipping,” or receiving a TRS pension and full-time salary in a TRS-covered pension.
Klaisner said the COVID-19 pandemic is putting a strain on the already shrinking pool of teachers.
"We know they are communal compromised folks and there are people with complicated medical conditions that are going to make the situation worse and yet people are not lining up to be substitute teachers," Klaisner said.
Of Illinois’ 850 school districts, about 500 planned to offer in-person instruction this fall.