Press Release

Poll shows impacts of COVID-19 on public schools and also highlights concerns around teacher shortage

SPRINGFIELD — The Illinois Education Association (IEA) today released its third annual State of Education report, the only bipartisan poll asking Illinoisans about all aspects of public schools. There is a teacher shortage and the results show that Illinoisans believe COVID-19 will only make the problem worse. Also, the data show the COVID-19 pandemic has made teaching and learning more difficult, Illinoisans continue to trust educators most when it comes to all school- related matters and there is wide support for IEA’s health and safety related standards for schools during a pandemic.

“The people have spoken. They understand that COVID-19 has been difficult for students, educators and everyone else in our public-school system,” IEA President Kathi Griffin said. “In addition, they also support solutions that will make health and safety a top priority and ensure everyone in our schools is safe.”

Seventy-nine percent of Illinoisans are in favor of the following:

  • Establish clear metrics, so districts know when to switch to remote learning to keep students and staff safe;
  • Enforce guidance and requirements put forth by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the Illinois State Board of Education, and heed the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control;
  • Provide rapid COVID-19 testing in schools so infected students and staff can be identified before they spread the virus;
  • Ensure education employees are not forced to work while ill.

The data show that on the whole, the public is very concerned about the teacher shortage and COVID-19 exacerbating the problem.

“The people of Illinois believe educators are the ones that they trust most to make decisions about their child’s education.” Griffin said. “To that end, they are also quite concerned about the current teacher shortage and the very real possibility that COVID-19 will make the problem even worse. The pandemic has meant a dramatic increase in the amount of teacher retirements.

Throughout the pandemic, teachers have been working 10-12 hour days not only teaching but preparing for in-person and remote, or simultaneous, instruction. They have been trying to address the social and emotional needs of students all while taking care of their own families. Unfortunately, this has resulted in many educators considering leaving the profession. This would be a tremendous loss for students because we know the positive impact that experienced educators have on students’ learning. We must do something to stop damage this pandemic is causing.”

Illinoisans ranked their concerns associated with the growing educator shortage, and the possibility that one in four teachers, school psychologists and paraeducators could leave the profession. The top concerns are as follows:

  • Students will end up performing worse.
  • Standards will have to be lowered to allow people into the profession.
  • Classrooms will get more crowded.
  • Taxes will go up because school districts will have to pay everyone more to keep them.

“We need to attract and have career sustainability for all of our educators, which means we have to pay them fairly. Illinoisans are well aware that many teachers and support staff are underpaid, and the data reflects that,” Griffin said. “We can do better, and until we do, the teacher shortage will only get worse.”

The poll, conducted by Normington Petts and Next Generation Strategies, surveyed 1,000 Illinoisans between Feb. 11 and 21. It has a margin of error of +/- 3.1 percent with 95 percent confidence.

“We are excited to be in our third year of this very important look at public education in Illinois. The pandemic is top of mind for Illinoisans and it’s influencing their views on public education and how we can improve public ed in the future,” Normington Petts’ Jill Normington said.

“This poll is without bias. The people that we talked to reflect the census data. We have a very good cross section of the state, so we could truly get an honest look at the state of education in Illinois,” Next Generation Strategies Pat Brady said.

There will be a press conference via Zoom Tues., March 23 at 11 a.m. To attend the news conference please fill out this Google Form and you will be sent the Zoom information. To request the full poll and crosstabs, email bridget.shanahan@ieanea.org. For more information on this poll and past polls, please go IEAstateofeducation.org.

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The 135,000 member Illinois Education Association (IEA-NEA) is the state’s largest education employee’s organization. IEA represents preK-12 teachers outside of the city of Chicago and education support staff, higher education faculty, retired education employees and students preparing to become teachers, statewide.