The fate of education and the teaching shortage is directly tied to the substitute shortage experienced by school districts both locally and nationwide. According to the Learning Policy Institute, enrollment in teacher certification programs has dropped 75% in the last decade, and those numbers continue to plummet. Additionally approximately 40 % of California teachers are eligible for or moving toward retirement. There are the multiple well-known hurdles that make teaching less attractive as a profession: low pay, large classroom sizes, public/political scapegoating of teachers, student loan debt, lack of affordable housing/transportation, and the list goes on. Less and less people are attracted to teaching as a profession, which corresponds to less people attracted by the opportunity to serve as a substitute.
The Good Old Days
Before these numbers began to plunge, school districts had more than enough substitutes. They were easy to come by, as it was a popular means by which new graduates from teaching programs could get experience in a classroom and go on to be hired by a school district. School districts did not have to put any effort into attracting substitute teachers---the substitute teachers came to them.
That Was Then…This Is Now
Things have changed. Drastically. School districts can no longer sit back and wait for subs to come to them—they need to engage in active outreach in order to find potential substitutes. In the past decade, school districts have not come up with a way to adequately respond to the continuing substitute teacher shortage. The reason is twofold: 1) school districts simply lack the personnel, time, energy, and resources that would be needed to dedicate toward an effective recruitment effort throughout the year; 2) school districts don’t know where to look for new potential candidates. So nothing changes, and the shortage gets worse each year.
When There Is No Substitute To Cover A Class---What Does The School Have To Do?
When a substitute cannot be found, it causes a negative ripple-effect on a school district, from the top-down. It becomes a mad scramble to find coverage. This is usually when “panic mode” kicks in, to move the puzzle pieces of existing qualified personnel into place, in order to somehow have a classroom “legally” covered. This effort takes up a significant amount of time by the school site administrators, grade-level teaching teams, and principals to pitch in and find a temporary solution. If you are an administrator, teacher, support personnel, or principal--you know what this looks and feels like, and it’s an awful way to start the day.
If a sub can’t be found to cover a classroom, schools must resort to a variety of desperate alternatives to legally cover a teacher’s absence.
These include, but aren’t limited to the following:
splitting students up into already crowded classrooms
having principals and counselors take over the classroom
pulling teachers out of their preparation periods
cancelling or pulling teachers from their scheduled professional development
cancelling or missing staff meetings
pulling learning support teachers
warehousing students in gymnasiums or multi-purpose rooms
pulling teachers from lunch, recess, hallway, and enrichment (i.e., lunch club) duties
New Legislation Impacting Statutory Leaves for Teachers
New legislation is putting another layer of strain on substitute coverage. Pursuant to AB 375, California law now permits up to 12 weeks of paid FMLA leave for certificated teachers. With the advent of this new law, teachers will understandably take more time to stay home with their new babies. School districts need enough qualified substitutes to fill these extended maternity leaves.
This Problem Has A Solution
The unfortunate fact is that this substitute shortage was preventable. School districts just didn’t know how to course-correct, to meet the challenges of an abrupt shift in the economy and its impact on supply.
But on a positive note--this substitute shortage can be fixed. There is no “one-size-fits-all” solution, as school sites and school districts vary in size, demographics, philosophy, and needs.
This is why SubWorksPro was created--to do for schools, what they cannot do for themselves--due to the lack of time, staff, and resources. SubWorksPro provides customized, “outside-of-the-box” recruitment efforts, and will train the substitutes to fit the academic needs and culture of the school.
Once that is done, it simply becomes of matter of “maintenance”, whereby SubWorksPro does periodic check-ups on the fill rates, the number of active substitutes within the pool, and continues micro-recruitment and training efforts to keep a constant supply of quality, well-trained subs, as other subs leave the pool for permanent jobs. The results are immediate, tangible, and will yield a constant, healthy supply of substitutes indefinitely. A substitute supply shortage can be a thing of the past.