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An Unfolding Crisis in the Satisfaction and Supply of Teachers in Illinois

This headline is from a November 24, 2020 report authored by the U of I’s Meghan A Kessler for The University of Illinois System’s Institute of Government and Public Affairs. The report confirms that the weaknesses that already existed in Illinois’s supply of teachers have only been made worse and more apparent in the time of Covid-19.

  • The shortages are not evenly spread. They are most acute in rural and inner city locations in schools that serve children with the greatest needs.
  • The shortages are most keenly felt in certain categories such as Special Education teachers.
  • The shortages are especially acute when schools seek to recruit and retain minority teachers that look like the students that high-needs schools are full of.

Plans to solve the problems are not hard to find, but executing solutions is difficult. Excellent training and degree programs for K-12 educators are neither quick nor cheap. They do exist though and with additional funding they can be scaled up.

Funding them and the students participating in this vital training is the critical challenge we meet when implementing solutions to the teacher shortage.

In normal times we look to the City of Chicago and the State of Illinois for funding. Now those governments are faced with budget challenges that go well beyond the needs of education. Deficits loom and while the case for investing in education is strong the deficits that the city and state face are unprecedented. If government can’t fill the gap, who can?

One part of a solution may be private sector not-for-profit investment in K-12 educators. Last month a new not for profit organization the Education Equity Fund, NFP invested in fifteen new CPS teachers from the Chicago Teacher Residency Program. The investment allowed a diverse and excellent group of teachers to afford the time out of the workforce to engage in a rigorous full time 12 month program that combines clinical teaching with grad school credits that lead to a Master’s degree and a job in a Chicago Public School.

  • The fifteen residents gained valuable training and credentials that prepared them for positions in CPS.
  • Chicago gained fifteen highly trained teachers . The record at The Chicago Teacher Residency program shows they will stay longer and do better than average; just what the high-needs students in high-needs Chicago Schools need.
  • The Education Equity Fund, NFP will oversee an evergreen Social-Investment Fund where candidates that have successfully moved into the workforce will help fund more teachers in subsequent years.

Education Equity Fund, NFP is preparing to fund twenty-five future teachers for September of 2021 and One hundred by the fall of 2022. Social investing will not replace the need for well funded government support, but it can provide high-value returns to multiple stakeholders.