Friday, January 27, 2017

Law addresses substitute teacher shortage

A new Vision 20/20-supported law has been signed to address a major substitute-teacher shortage in Illinois schools. The law is designed to reduce fees for interested applicants by $50, remove the requirement of passing a basic skills test, and allow the state to grant licenses to teachers with comparable out-of-state licenses.

Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the measure, now P.A. 99-0920, on Jan. 6 at Carbondale Community High School. The governor has touted the law as helping “address Illinois regional teacher shortage and substitute teacher shortage,” saying it also “lifts some of the burdens retired teachers faced if they wanted to return to the classroom to sub for a teacher.”

Rauner noted that the Vision 20/20 initiative had pushed for changes in teacher licensure since the group officially launched in November 2014. One of the four pillars of Vision 20/20 is Highly Effective Educators, with licensure reciprocity and streamlining the licensure process among the key goals, according to the school management advocates. 

The shortage has become severe, with public-school administrators scrambling to find substitute teachers for as many as 600 Illinois classrooms a day, according to a survey released Jan. 17. The survey, conducted in nearly 400 school districts by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, revealed that teachers call in more than 16,500 absences each week. School officials have trouble finding replacements for nearly 20 percent of them.

Jeff Vose
The organization’s president, Jeff Vose, who is regional school superintendent for Sangamon and Menard counties, said a 2012 increase in substitute teacher certification requirements may have discouraged some candidates from applying to be fill-in teachers. It raised the application fee to $100, bringing applicants’ total registration costs to around $200. It also added a background check to allay concerns about “educator misconduct with students,” which accounts for roughly $50 of the $200 total cost.

Vose told The Associated Press on Jan. 17 that when schools are unable to locate a teacher, principals and administrators commonly fill in, which takes them away from administrative duties.

Teacher absences are particularly common in the more populous Chicago suburbs, the review found. But substitute teacher shortages are most prevalent in southern and western Illinois. Another issue is the relatively low pay for substitutes; with a median hourly salary in the state of $13.40, the pay ranges from roughly $9 to $27 an hour, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey results reported in May 2015.

To learn more about the recently signed bill, here is the text of the new law.  

 For more information on Vision 20/20, please visit the Vision 20/20 website.