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Districts fear teacher shortages with retirements

By Kevin Bessler | The Center Square

(The Center Square) – Illinois is dealing with a shortage of teachers, and now the possibility of educators retiring rather than going back into the classroom during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Illinois State Board of Education reports of the state’s 850 school districts, over 500 will be offering in-class instruction this fall. That involves over 600,000 students.

Rocky Joyner, an actuary with the Segal Consulting firm, said in-class instruction raises many questions in terms of liability.

“Will COVID be a teaching disability that is automatic, or that has started in some states, will there be laws adopted that limit employer liability for their employees that have been exposed to COVID?” said Joyner.

The question arises if there is a surge in teacher retirements, who will replace them? Illinois had the 8th highest decrease in students entering education programs in college. Dan Doonan, executive director of the National Institute on Retirement, said states may have to take action to replenish the pool.

“Young people are no longer looking to go into education at the rate they used to, and it looks like some states are responding by opening up more alternative pathways to become certified,” Doonan said.

The prospect of teachers retiring to avoid the classroom also puts a strain on retirement programs. “If you have 10 to 20 percent more retirees than you are expecting, that could create cash flow issues in your retirement program because you were not expecting that many to retire, now you have to come up with the cash to pay them,” said Joyner.

According to a USA Today poll from May, about 20 percent of teachers said they weren’t likely to return to teaching when schools reopen.

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