News Local/State

Two State Senators Look For Bipartisan Solutions To Teacher Shortage

State Senator Kimberly Lightford.

In this Dec. 14, 2015 file photo, state Sen. Sen. Kimberly Lightford, D-Maywood speaks during a news conference in Chicago. She's working with Republican Jason Barickman to help address a teacher shortage in the state. M. Spencer Green/AP

Two Illinois lawmakers --- one Democrat and one Republican --- are working to find long-term solutions to a teacher shortage. 

According to the Illinois State Board of Education, there are currently 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs in the state, leading some schools to cancel courses.

State Senator Jason Barickman says low pay, lack of support and a complicated licensing process are keeping numbers down. The Bloomington Republican also says it is hard to find people to teach in small, rural school districts "unless those teachers are from the area or are married to someone from the area."

Barickman added, "We’ll look at some incentives and various ways we can approach a very challenging issue."

Barickman is working with Democratic State Senator Kimberly Lightford of suburban Chicago to find ways to make teaching in Illinois a more attractive profession.

Lightford says she'd like to see educators start recruiting future teachers while they're still in high school.

"I've gone to many places in schools, and there's always a career day," Lightford said. "There's never a teacher promoting the profession."

Both lawmakers agree that the state needs to make fundamental changes in the public education system to encourage more people to become teachers.