Filling a teacher’s position has always been part of the K-12 education process. Whether it is long-term, short-term, or permanent, change constantly has been in the “things to factor” playbook for school administrators. Teachers get sick. They want time off. They opt to take different career paths. But now, in a world where pre-pandemic issues almost seem insignificant, the amount of teaching candidates available can be so small that those same administrators sometimes find themselves in front of students, giving a lesson plan. If they’ve had the chance to prepare one.
More Positions to Fill
Across the country, school districts are struggling to fill teacher positions. Since August 2019, according to the Florida Education Association (FEA), K-12 teacher vacancies have increased by more than 67 percent. That fact highlights how critical substitute teachers are now to the staffing equation for districts – not only on a day-to-day basis, but continuously, over the long haul. With fewer full-time teachers in Florida – on the first day of this school year, according to the FEA, there were close to 5,000 teacher vacancies in the state – there is a greater need for substitutes.
The problem is not exclusive to Florida, and some states have taken extreme
measures to address it. In Idaho, Gov. Brad Little has pledged $10 million to
combat substitute teacher shortages. Some school districts in Utah have offered a $500 incentive to individuals just to try substitute teaching. One in Oregon offered as much as $3,300 in incentives to court substitutes.
Indeed, there is an alarming need for substitute teachers. But recruiting them
is only part of the blueprint. Retaining them is just as crucial, to ensure stability in the classroom – for the districts, their schools, and their students – and to reduce the investment of time and resources necessary to recruit more substitutes due to substitute turnover.
Ways to Address the Issue
An increase in pay is the most obvious choice to retain substitutes, and some
counties in Florida have taken that route. However, district budgets may not be equipped to handle such a fiscal change. Fortunately, there are other options.