A good teacher can be the difference between a student going to college and dropping out of high school. But in Illinois, our most vulnerable students do not always have access to the teachers they so desperately need.
A recent survey from the Illinois State Board of Education reveals that communities of color and low-income school districts are most likely to see teacher shortages. Of the 1,006 unfilled teacher positions in the state, 74% are in majority-minority school districts while 81% are in districts where the majority of students are low-income. 90% of vacancies are in underfunded school districts. These vacancies bolster an uncomfortable truth: Illinois’ marginalized students face more barriers to accessing high-quality education and supports.
The subjects with most teacher vacancies further illustrate that Illinois is underserving its most vulnerable students. Over half of the state’s unfilled teacher positions are in bilingual and Special Education, meaning English learners and students with special needs are less likely to have the supports they need, especially if they live in under-resourced districts with more low-income students or more students of color.
Regionally, subjects affected by teacher vacancies vary. Downstate, teacher vacancies affect a broad range of subjects. While 30% of teacher vacancies are in special education downstate, an additional 40% of vacancies are evenly distributed between science, math, foreign language, and bilingual education.
In collar counties, bilingual education (40% of vacancies) and special education (20%) have the greatest shortages. In Chicago, vacancies are split between special education (40%), bilingual (13%) and elementary education (13%), though Chicago suburbs have equal need in special education and bilingual (30% each).
In order to address teacher shortages throughout the state, Illinois must work to elevate the teacher profession and provide districts with the resources they need to attract, hire, and retain high-quality teachers. The state should consider student demographics as well as regional differences to best target resources and supports. Otherwise, the state will continue to perpetuate a lopsided education system where our most vulnerable students receive the least support.
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