With multiple states across the nation experiencing teacher shortages, substitute teachers are more in-demand than ever. According to Frontline Technologies, 62 percent of districts surveyed have a problem finding enough applicants for open positions.
Opinions vary on what is causing the shortage — slashed budgets, low enrollment in teacher training programs, low pay — and proposals to fix the problem range from increasing teacher salaries to completely eliminating certification requirements.
Between 2012 and 2014, the number of annual applicants for teaching positions fell 17 percent. And last year, the Kansas City Star reported an 8.3 percent increase in teachers leaving the profession and an 18.8 percent increase in teachers leaving the state.
Experts site larger class sizes, reduced funding and fewer classroom aides as reasons for the decrease in teachers.
Substitutes Filling the Gaps
Teacher shortages in Kansas and Missouri have increased many districts’ reliance on substitute teachers.
“In the past couple of years, we’ve seen an increase in the number of vacancy positions that we have been asked to fill with a substitute teacher,” Angela Hunt, Director of MHED, a substitute teacher staffing firm, said. “We continue to recruit qualified substitute teachers at MHED to keep up with the demand.”
School districts’ difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers have increased the length of substitute assignments, ranging from one week to several months.
Solving the Shortage
President Obama recently signed the Every Student Succeeds Act into law, giving more power to state governments to fix the shortage. Solutions won’t come quick — many local legislators have decided to wait until next school year to tackle these problems.
Until then, districts will continue to rely on substitute teachers to fill the gaps.