Across the country substitute teachers are in demand. The lack of substitute teachers that Texas school districts are experiencing, a problem that occurred last spring during the pandemic, still lingers.
In six of the largest districts in North Texas, “nearly half the time” when a substitute teacher is needed, schools are unable to fill the position.
In Texas, school systems determine their own qualifications for their substitute teacher rosters. What’s common is a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or college credits, and undergoing teacher training. For longer term substitute teaching a valid teaching certificate may be required.
Some districts are altering requirements for substitute teachers, and are hopeful to lure more.
Mary Randall, assistant superintendent for personnel services for Mesquite ISD told the Dallas Morning News that the district is reducing the number of college hours required to be a substitute teacher, from 60 hours to 30 hours.
Substitute teachers are often of retirement age, and for some school districts a great percentage of them are over 65, which could mean health concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus. If the teacher is out because of COVID-19, it could mean over a week out of the classroom which can mean problems to fill the prolonged time frame.
Rob D’Amico, spokesperson for the Texas chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said with so many districts in different situations, the availability for substitute teachers varies a lot.
“Driving the demand,” D’Amico said, “is the fact that a large number of teachers are required to quarantine because of exposure to those infected with COVID-19. Every time that happens—unless you have an all-remote class—you’re going to need some kind of assistance in the classroom likely for a full 10 school days, and that’s a lot of substitute time you need to have on hand.”
Some school districts are looking to new graduates and alumni to fill the gaps. Wylie ISD, for example, is recruiting alumni who are still in college to return to the district and work as substitute teachers. The Dallas Morning News reported that since November, 80 high school graduates have applied so far.
Other districts are using the resources they have readily available.
“I had 114 subs in our system at the beginning of the year, and after reaching out to them that dwindled down to 63,” said Kim Brents, deputy superintendent for Lockhart Independent School District, who was the substitute teacher for a fourth grade class in December.
Then there’s the issue of pay.
Some Texas school districts are increasing pay and providing bonuses as incentives to round up more substitute teachers and cushion the demand during the pandemic. In North Texas, Dallas ISD trustees voted to increase pay up to $20 a day. Other districts like Mesquite are offering a $500 bonus for substitute teachers who complete 50 days of teaching during that span of a semester.
D’Amico says low pay doesn’t give much incentive for some to serve as a substitute and possibly risk their own health going on to a campus.
“Managing substitutes has always been a high priority for districts, but it’s clear that higher pay and an effective way of managing the availability of your subs will be something highly valued in the future after our experience in the pandemic,” D’Amico added.
Here’s an example of pay rates from Dallas ISD.
In Odessa, the Ector County Independent School District is looking for substitute teachers now, stating that depending on whether you are certified or not, “You can earn anywhere from $104-$125 daily.”