SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As expected, the COVID-19 pandemic created new challenges for both teachers and students across the state.
The Illinois Education Association released the State of Education report Tuesday claiming the pandemic increased students’ difficulty to learn. The bipartisan poll showed eight in 10 adults believe the pandemic has also made teaching harder.
IEA President Kathi Griffin stressed teachers are struggling to lead students on two different platforms, both in-person and virtually. She explained this unfortunately caused some teachers to quit teaching all together.
“You have teachers who are working these extremely long days, developing lessons on multiple platforms, assessing their work, communicating with parents, and trying to take care of their own health and that of their family,” said Griffin. “That is what is being so stressful.”
Griffin explained other stressors for teachers come from students sleeping in and not attending virtual class on time. She also said teachers have issues with students who go on family vacations and skip out on instruction. Griffin said it’s crucial for students to be present and participate in class.
When asked what the biggest impacts were on students, 44% of Illinois residents said “virtual learning challenges” and 29% said “no socialization.”
School districts across Illinois have also struggled in terms of funding. Governor JB Pritzker’s budget didn’t meet the required $350 million for the evidence-based funding model last year.
However, Griffin emphasized Illinois’ education system can’t count on federal money for school’s funding. She said federal money from the most recent stimulus bill is a one time deal, not something to rely on.
“There is a law that says that we need to start contributing to evidence-based funding so that all of our schools, no matter where you are in the state of Illinois, have the resources in order to support student learning,” said Griffin.
She explained last year’s funding remained stagnant. Yet, it should be increasing each year. Griffin also said Illinois can’t fall behind on funding for schools since that fails to properly invest in every student.
The report also found Illinois residents believe the teacher shortage is cause for concern and COVID-19 only made it worse. A 2020 IEA poll found that one in three teachers considered leaving the profession.
Griffin suggested the teacher shortage was gradually getting worse and the pandemic only exposed it even more.
“We have execellent qualified teachers that were considering leaving the profession or taking a year off because they just don’t know how they continue providing this form of education,” said Griffin. “I think we’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but we need to make sure that we support our teachers the best you can.”