Budget, bureaucracy hamper hiring

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The federal government has spent millions of dollars to help local universities prepare teacher candidates for Chicago Public Schools.

But this year’s budget crisis has meant that far fewer new graduates ended up in Chicago’s neediest neighborhood schools. “The significant budget cuts this last year deeply impacted our graduates’ capacity to find work,” notes Kavita Kapadia Matsko, director of the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program, which includes a year of education coursework plus a year-long paid residency in a school.

The percentage of the program’s graduates who are teaching at charter schools instead of neighborhood schools increased dramatically this year.

Another factor that consistently prevents CPS from taking advantage of the new talent is late hiring. Robert Lee, director of programs and partnerships at Illinois State University’s Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline, says that unlike graduates from some other programs, his students do not have a guaranteed job upon graduation—and they are not offered loan or tuition forgiveness if they work in CPS.

And because CPS hires teachers in August or September, far later than competing suburban districts, “we find that our best graduates receive job offers early and accept those positions outside of CPS,” Lee says.

Top candidates want to spend the summer getting ready to teach and learning about the school where they will work, not “continuing to scour the job market, interview after interview, forced to wait until the days right before the school year begins to receive an offer,” Lee adds.

Roughly 43 percent of all Chicago Teacher Education Pipeline graduates were hired by CPS and a large majority—80 percent—are in neighborhood schools. The 139 teachers who were trained in Pipeline schools in recent years are a small fraction of those who graduate from ISU’s education program each year (between 1,300 and 1,500).