Help wanted: substitute teachers needed everywhere

Help wanted: substitute teachers needed everywhere

(N.M.) Substitute teachers are in critical demand just as the credentialed educators they fill in for–and despite administrators’ best efforts, districts across the country are struggling to fill the need.

In large districts such as Sarasota County Schools in Florida and Albuquerque, New Mexico, district leaders are looking to hire between 200 and 250 substitute teachers–though schools in Kentucky, Nebraska, Michigan and California all reported a shortage in the last two months as well.

“Albuquerque Public Schools, like the rest of the nation, is feeling the impact of a teacher shortage that is making it harder to fill some positions, and that is having a trickle-down effect on our substitute teachers,” Antonio Gonzales, the district’s interim superintendent for human resources, said in a statement.

Long-term absences due to illness or maternity or paternity leave require a substitute to fill in for weeks or months at a time, while others may be called upon at a moment’s notice if a teacher calls out sick, must attend professional development or leave early for an athletic event or other school-related activity. But the pool of available substitutes has dwindled in recent years, likely as a result of an improving economy and competitive job market drawing potential substitutes toward other careers, according to education officials.

Others speculate that other factors may include newly credentialed teachers taking substitute positions only until they find a permanent job; and retired teachers who substitute opting to set their own, lighter workloads.

This have left many districts competing with surrounding areas for the same, small group of professionals–especially in subjects including special education, math and science.

In Albuquerque, for example, district officials found that of the more than 120 teacher openings, 56 are in special education, and math, science, and English as a Second Language have been deemed high-need areas too.

Similarly, in Fayette County Public Schools in Kentucky, 163 special education substitute positions went unfilled in October alone, prompting the county’s Board of Education in November to approve a $20 increase in pay per-day for special education substitute teachers and special education substitute paraeducators.

In Nebraska, Hastings Public Schools officials, also recently approved a pay increase after 39 certificated staff members, or teachers, absent were absent on Nov. 14, and only 35 substitutes were available to fill those spots–a shortage situation the district superintendent told local reporters was not uncommon, as many subs often work with other local school districts.

To entice substitutes to accept more work in Hastings, the school district's Board of Education recently increased the per-day salary for substitutes from $116 to $124, and has begun discussing creating bonuses for those who work more than a certain number of days, and for those who work Mondays and Fridays, which are often days when fewer subs are available and more teachers are absent.

Folsom Cordova Unified School District, located in California, struggles more with competition for subs between schools within the district rather than with other districts in the area. Trustees voted to increase pre-day pay to $140 in Rancho Cordova schools, compared to $115 for working in Folsom after officials reported that many people were still opting to fill spots in the closer, more affluent Folsom area–opposed to the low-come schools in Rancho Cordova.

Education officials in Florida’s Sarasota County and state lawmakers in Michigan have opted instead to relax various screening and credentialing requirements for substitutes in an effort to draw in more people quickly, especially is still cash-strapped districts.

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