(KFVS) - School administrators in Illinois say they are finding it harder and harder to get qualified teachers into classrooms.
60-percent of 538 school districts that responded to a recent survey conducted by the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents (IARSS) reported having trouble filling teaching positions. Three-quarters say they're seeing fewer qualified candidates than in previous years.
The Regional Superintendent of Frankllin-Johnson-Massac-Williamson County Schools, Matt Donkin, said it's become increasingly difficult to attract qualified educators.
"In education, I think many people agree that the most important thing is to have a quality teacher with your children every day," Donkin said. "The issue we've had in Illinois because of changing rules and laws is there's been certain barriers put in place that have made it a less attractive field to go into."
The IARSS found rural school districts in central and northwest Illinois are having the toughest time finding qualified teachers.
The shortage may be an opportunity for people like Mercedees Edwards, 19, to get their dream job. Edwards is a student at John A. Logan College and is on track to receive her bachelors degree in early childhood education.
"I want kids to be able to enjoy school like I did," Edwards said. "I want them to want to learn and to have some fun environment where they feel as though they're learning something and enjoying the atmosphere."
However, she said she was surprised to learn that Illinois had a shortage of teachers.
"I feel like being a teacher is such a common goal for so many people and that so many people are trying to be teachers, I would think that there wouldn't be enough openings," Edwards said.
The group offered a number of suggestions to help solve the issue including simplifying application processes, expanding recruiting efforts, making it easier for educators to come from other states, and to even change the state's teaching requirements.
Staffing shortages are particularly problematic for secondary schools with 80 percent of high school districts and 87 percent of unit school district noticing fewer quality candidates applying for positions.
The collection of Illinois superintendents say Illinois' budget problems and the possibility of reduced public-pension benefits have likely dissuaded applicants.
Sixteen percent of responding districts reported canceling programs or classes due to teacher shortages. Special education, math and science were among the hardest hit areas.