Teacher shortage shortchanges our children

To deal with the current teacher shortage, schools have increased class sizes, used long-term substitutes, brought back retired teachers and combined classes. But schools cannot continue to rely on these “Hail Mary” strategies as the teacher shortage continues to grow and our children’s education suffers.

According to a recent study published by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools, 88% of school districts reported teacher shortages and 77% indicated the shortage problem was getting worse. Additionally, 96% said they have a substitute teacher shortage. What’s more, 86% indicated they are seeing fewer qualified applicants for open positions.

One solution to ease the teacher shortage is proposed by Illinois State Representative Amy Grant. She is sponsoring House Bill 5361 that would create a fast-track program for qualified paraprofessionals so they can obtain a teaching degree. The benefit to such a program? Paraprofessionals are already in the classroom now and can hit the ground running once they earn their teaching degree. 

Paraprofessionals assist teachers in preparing lesson plans, setting up activities, cleaning the classroom, and preparing for the following day. Their duties and responsibilities focus specifically on providing learning support, generally to students with special needs. Rep. Grant believes giving paraprofessionals a faster track to licensure would fill vacancies and at the same time provide students with the quality education they deserve.

“The teacher shortage has real consequences for our children,” explains Grant. “It shortchanges students, threatening their ability to learn and negatively impacting their educational achievement.” Grant adds, “That's why I am excited to introduce this bill - it will simultaneously address the teacher shortage and help provide a stable learning environment for our kids."

Grant’s plan creates the Paraprofessional Fast-Track to Teaching Degree Pilot Program Act. The pilot program would administer a two-year degree pathway by which paraprofessionals can attain a professional education license. The program would comply with the standards set by the Illinois State Board of Education and the Board of Higher Education. If successful the program would introduce many more committed and qualified teachers to Illinois schools that could significantly improve educational opportunities for Illinois students.

Follow the bill through the legislative process

More about Rep. Amy Grant