Illinois’ Teacher Shortage Keeps Getting Worse


Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker signs a legislation regarding the teacher shortage at Springfield High School on April27, 2022.

Pera Onal, Editor-in-Chief

Illinois is experiencing a teacher shortage that might be caused by low pay rates and retirement policies, but it isn’t going unnoticed by district staff.

Teacher shortages aren’t a new problem in Illinois, but recently, they’re getting worse. According to The State Journal-Register and the Illinois State Board of Education, Illinois’ teacher shortage is the highest it’s ever been in five years, with 5,300 classrooms being unfilled in 2022.

Science teacher Robert Unzicker initially noticed the teacher shortage because of the dramatic drop in the number of job applicants.

“There was a science teacher who resigned about two weeks before school started…,” Mr. Unzicker said. “[The open position] was filled by a number of different subs until…the end of November.

He thinks these low number of applications might be caused by the “shift” in school culture and the low pay.

“It’s just getting tougher…,” Mr. Unzicker said. “The cost of living is increasing more rapidly than most teacher salaries increase.”

The other reason is the state’s Teacher Retirement System, which involves the salary cap and the Tier divisions of teachers.

According to Madison County Regional Superintendent of Schools Rob Werden, teachers who are under Tier 2 of the state’s system, meaning they were hired after 2011, must be 67 before they are eligible for a full retirement. For teachers under Tier 1, those who were hired before 2011, the eligible age is 55.

Werden told the Edwardsville Intelligencer that the 6% salary cap was created to reduce the amount of money the state was previously paying in pensions the couple years leading up to a teacher’s retirement.

This salary cap means that if a teacher were to retire before the eligible age, they would lose 6% of their retirement income for every year they were early.

In addition, if a teacher is subbing extra classes to get paid more or taking sick leave, that extra work and time will count against their 6%. For teachers part of Tier 2, none of that will count toward an early retirement.

Mr. Unzicker said these policies are enough to convince people to teach outside of Illinois, even those who get certified in the state.

However, some state and district staff are beginning to act.

On Wednesday, April 12, state Rep. Katie Stuart and Werden hosted the 2023 Madison County Teacher Shortage Feedback Session to discuss the issue. They invited numerous educators from across the county to attend.

“I want an opportunity to hear from actual educators,” Stuart told the Intelligencer. “If they have had colleagues that have recently left the teaching profession, we can hear anecdotally why it’s happening and what we can do to show young people that education is a great career…”

To introduce kids to teaching as a career, Werden said some districts and schools, including EHS, have already created special classes dealing with the topic.

“If any of those students have interest in becoming teachers, we want to encourage that and watch it grow,” Werden said for the Intelligencer. “We’ll work with our local colleges and their education programs…we want young people at the K-12 level to start thinking about a career in education.”

Aware of these efforts, Mr. Unzicker thinks the district and the state have done positive and negative things in attempts to resolve the issue.

“There’s always more that could be done,” he said. “There’s always more to try to reach out to potential candidates that are in school or coming out of school. It’s to try to build up…pipelines from local universities to teaching candidates who want to come to our school…some of these things are being done, some of these things are not…”