MONTICELLO, Ill., (WCIA) — Many school districts are getting ready to fill their classrooms with students and teachers again this fall. But, a new school year can also come with a familiar challenge for some. 

Some districts in Central Illinois are struggling with teacher shortages. It’s not a problem that can go away overnight. 

Nancy Latham, a dean with the University of Illinois College of Education, said fewer teachers could lead to larger class sizes. Larger classes with an unbalanced student-to-teacher ratio could turn into a safety issue. She has been researching teacher shortages for the last few years. 

She believes some of the major reasons people are leaving the teaching field are environmental concerns in schools and the pay.  

“When we look at teacher pay, we look at what it’s costing teachers to get the degree that’s required and the credentials that are required, she said. “When we look at things from teacher pay to benefits, all of that that has also diminished over the years compared to other fields.”

The National Education Association said there were 155,000 open jobs across the country in 2019. As of May, there are now 380,000 open jobs. 

It hasn’t always been this way. 

“We were pouring so much in. Now, we’re seeing that flow diminish,” Latham said. 

Adam Clapp, the Monticello Community School District superintendent, said their schools are fully staffed. 

“We still have people applying to be teachers in the district and that’s awesome. It’s just a great community to work in,” he said. 

But, it wasn’t easy to fill those gaps. 

“There are fewer teachers in the pipeline. There are fewer students going to college to become teachers. So we are seeing a significant reduction in the number of applications for positions,” he said. 

Clapp and his colleagues in Monticello are also helping other school districts fill the holes. 

“We’re all in this together, we feel lucky here in Monticello, we have the positions filled, but, other districts aren’t in that boat. And if there are things we can do to help out, we surely try,” Clapp said. 

Latham said to find a long-term solution, leaders have to look at the bigger picture. 

“We really have to fund schools, and fund the profession differently and start to think about it differently. We want to see people gravitate toward it to get back to those kinds of numbers,” she said. 

In Central Illinois, there are many districts with K-12 teacher vacancies. 

  • Champaign Unit 4 School District: 59 openings
  • Urbana School District #116: 49 openings
  • Mattoon Community School District 2: 12 openings
  • Paxton-Buckley-Loda CUSD 10: 6 openings
  • St. Joseph-Ogden CHSD #305: 3 openings

You can apply to many of these positions through district websites.