Substitute teacher shortage in Illinois may lead to amended legislation

By Joe Bennett

February 10, 2013 Updated Feb 11, 2013 at 12:46 PM CDT

NORMAL, Ill -- At one time, School districts covered the costs of background checks, certification fees, and even physicals for substitute teachers.

In 2010, state legislators passed a law putting that burden on teaching applicants to cut costs for the districts.

"If you have a big school district, it can be a significant cost when you're talking about hundreds of teachers," Says Democratic State Representative from the 92nd District Jehan Gordon-Booth.

Local lawmakers and school officials say the unintended effect is a large decline in subs, mostly retired teachers.

Some retirees say they don't want to pay into a system in which they've already worked.

This year, the number of Unit 5 subs in Normal dropped from 400 to about 290.

"This will be one of our years where we don't have as many retirements," says Unit 5 Superintendent Dr. Gary Niehaus. "Last year I believe we had a bout 26. I think we're projected to only have about 13 this year"

Dr. Niehaus says that could be good for younger subs looking for a job.

De Vona Haywood has been seeking a full-time position in the district for about nine years.

She says having the job is worth paying the extra costs, such as physicals.

"Yes at first you have to pay, and there are clinics like at Meiers," Haywood says. "That kind of helps take the cost down, even if you don't have say a family doctor."

For each district in which one wishes to teach, one has to pay the entire list of costs.

"And that can be a significant cost if you're looking to maybe work a rotation of schools as a substitute teacher," says Representative Gordon-Booth.

Gordon-Booth says she may support legislation that has already been introduced to reduce costs for retired teachers.

Republican State Representative from the 105th District Dan Brady considers a bill as well.

"I can understand the pressure that's put on them over this particular change by law," says Brady. "It could be something that, as we hear more, we in Springfield look at some type of amendment to the existing bill, which is done next year."

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