John Meixner, Regional Superintendent of Schools
Fulton | Hancock | McDonough | Schuyler

Illinois adds nearly 5,700 teachers to the profession in a single year

Illinois adds nearly 5,700 teachers to the profession in a single year

SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois State Board of Education today released data from its Unfilled Positions Survey administered in the fall of 2021. The preliminary data show that Illinois added 5,676 teachers to the profession this year alone – more in a single year than in the past five years combined. The data collection showed that the statewide teacher vacancy rate has reached a low point of 1.5 percent statewide.  

The teaching profession has grown year-over-year since Illinois enacted historic funding reform beginning in fiscal year 2018. Since then, Governor JB Pritzker has invested more than $1 billion in Evidence-Based Funding. Additional state investments in education this year, as well as unprecedented federal pandemic relief funding, further fueled teacher hiring across the state.  

However, Illinois schools still have more than 2,100 unfilled teaching positions. The data show that these remaining vacancies are concentrated in chronically struggling schools, underfunded schools, and schools serving low-income communities. The data reinforce the importance of equity as the driving strategy for continuing to strengthen the teacher pipeline in Illinois. 

“The data show Illinois has accomplished tremendous success in strengthening the teacher pipeline in Illinois and attracting the best and the brightest to this incredible profession,” said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Carmen I. Ayala. “We still have work to do to ensure each and every student has well-supported educators in all their classes. Our low-income, bilingual, and special education students have the least access to the teachers they need to grow and thrive. Our solutions as a state must continue to be grounded in equity. We have accomplished so much in reducing barriers to licensure, and now we must continue to focus on building local pipelines of talent for hard-to-staff schools and subjects.” 

The data show the significant difference that increased funding and support have made in meeting the high demand for teachers across the state. Average teacher salaries have grown year-over-year with the greatest increase in recent years occurring in 2021, when the first phase of the minimum teacher salary enacted by Gov. Pritzker in 2019 went into effect. Enrollment in educator preparation programs grew 11 percent from 2019 to 2020. Last year, Illinois achieved the highest teacher retention rate (87.1 percent) since ISBE began reporting teacher retention data in 2014. 

The remaining vacancies impact the schools and students already facing other significant challenges. Schools serving higher percentages of low-income students reported higher teacher vacancy rates in ISBE’s FY 2021 collection. Schools serving the greatest concentration of low-income students (0-25 percent) had a teacher vacancy rate of 2.8 percent, compared to 6.3 percent for schools serving the lowest concentration of low-income students (75.1-100 percent).  

Seventy-six percent of the total unfilled positions reported were in school districts with a Tier 1 or Tier 2 Evidence-Based Funding designation, meaning they have less than 90 percent of the resources they need to provide a basic quality of education.  

Chronically struggling schools – those identified as needing Comprehensive or Targeted Support in the state’s multiple-measure accountability system – reported teacher vacancy rates of 7 and 6.6 percent, respectively, compared to 5.1 percent for schools assigned a Commendable designation and 3 percent for schools assigned an Exemplary designation. 

Nearly 40 percent of all teacher vacancies reported were in special education or bilingual education. 

ISBE has elevating educators as a central element of its Strategic Plan, including efforts such as: 

  • $5 million for Education Career Pathways Grants that support high-need school districts in creating local pipelines of teacher talent, starting in high school. 
  • $5.6 million for school districts with high turnover and vacancies among their special education teachers to implement evidence-based strategies to strengthen recruitment and retention. 
  • $4 million to cover the cost of tuition for current teachers to earn full licensure and bilingual endorsements to teach bilingual education. 
  • $2.25 million for Teacher Residency Grants in rural and low-income areas that increase teacher recruitment and retention through a more immersive and effective preparation experience. 
  • $2 million for affinity groups to improve recruitment and retention of teachers of color. 
  • Mentoring and instructional coaching to support the retention of first- and second-year teachers through a partnership with the Illinois Education Association and Illinois Federation of Teachers. 
  • A paid sabbatical for the Illinois Teacher of the Year to elevate and honor the state’s best educators. 
  • Short-Term Approvals that allow qualified candidates to earn their license while teaching. 
  • Public Act 101-0443, which increased the minimum teacher salary to $40,000. 


View the Unfilled Positions Survey from fall 2021 on the ISBE website

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