DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Across the nation, school districts are facing a teacher shortage. In central Illinois, one district is taking steps Tuesday night to fill openings.
Decatur Public Schools voted Tuesday on 53 personnel actions, including 44 teachers, assistants, coaches and administrative staff.
"As you know there is an educator shortage throughout the nation, so we work really hard to fill our positions. We have quite a few openings,” Interim Superintendent Bobbi Williams explained.
The Illinois State Board of Education lists 51 vacancies in Decatur Public Schools. But Interim Superintendent Williams told WAND News, she has been able to chip away at that number with competitive benefits and professional development.
"We have a pretty healthy health benefits package, where some other districts, they don't offer what we offer. Over the past several years, we've really had to try and have a salary package that's very competitive,” Williams added.
Statewide, ISBE reports there are 4,120 open teacher positions. That’s prompted State Rep. Sue Scherer to demand more drastic action.
"I thought, so as a parent walks in, are they going to be talking to a substitute instead of a classroom teacher? Not because that teacher's sick, but because there is no teacher?" Scherer asked.
WAND met with Scherer at Parsons Elementary on Parent-Teacher Conference night. The lawmaker said some of the very teachers inside could be eligible for their college tuition and fees to be fully repaid if lawmakers sign off on her proposal, known as House Bill 4139.
Scherer’s legislation will require the Illinois Student Assistance Commission to establish a teacher reimbursement grant program used for tuition and mandatory fees paid to a public institution of higher learning in the state. Eligible teachers may receive grants for the purpose of reimbursement worth eight semesters of intuition for up to 10 years as a part of the program.
"I talked to some regional superintendents about this and they told me today, if we don't do something hard and fast, it's literally going to be the end of public education in Illinois,” Scherer explained.
Illinoisans can see a full list of teacher vacancies by clicking here.