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Shortage of Agriculture Teachers in Illinois

Updated: Friday, June 27 2014, 04:34 PM CDT

ILLINOIS -- Uneven supply and demand.

With over 76-thousand farms covering nearly 80-percent of the state, many are shocked to find out there's a severe shortage when it comes to agricultural educators in Illinois.

Newschannel at Nine's Lindsey Hess investigates why the number of agriculture teachers is dwindling.

"The demand is there for these teachers, and unfortunately the supply isn't."

Agriculture is a top industry in Illinois, but finding people to teach high school agriculture is a struggle for districts across the state. Just ask Williamsville superintendent, David Root.

"Elementary positions you're going to get 900 applicants, even in a school district our size, and you get these specialty areas and you don't have very many."

Typically, there are around 25 agriculture education graduates in Illinois every year. Last year there were only 11 and this year there were 12.

"In a typical year, we'll have 50 to 60 teaching vacancies and some of those vacancies are created from teachers moving from one school to the next, but typically we have a need for 25 to 35 graduates in agriculture education."

Jess Smithers is the state coordinator for facilitating coordination in agriculture education.
He says more and more agriculture majors are turning to other sectors of the industry.

"Agri-business is strong and looking for candidates and so graduates at the collegiate level are lured into agriculture and maybe away from agriculture education."

And an increase in requirements for state certification also plays a role.

"There are times with the state board where you have to apply for some relief as far as the credentials just so you can get someone in there and basically to teach it even if they're not certified because the shortage is there."

Superintendent David Root says it's not only agriculture teachers that are tough for school districts to find. Teachers specializing in foreign language, home economics, and industrial tech are also in demand.

Shortage of Agriculture Teachers in Illinois

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