Substitute job fair set up to help stem shortage

California Center on Teaching Careers holds virtual job fair on Sept. 14 to mitigate the shortage of substitute teachers

TULARE COUNTY – Substitute teachers were in short supply last year and the jury is out on whether the problem will be better, the same or worse. Fortunately the California Center on Teaching Career is hosting their virtual job fair to help connect substitutes with districts. 

“Districts are recruiting and posting openings on a regular basis,” executive director of California Center on Teaching Career (CCTC) Marvin Lopez said. “We provide this service and bring more candidates to the table for them.”

The role of substitute teachers was probably underappreciated until last year. And the lack of substitutes highlights a chasm between smaller, lower income districts and their larger, more affluent counterparts. Predictably, smaller districts are less equipped to pay higher rates for substitutes, especially since the Covid-19 pandemic, which only worsened the problem. Shortages, in turn, disproportionately affect low-income families, which only magnifies the achievement gap between them and their more affluent peers. Meanwhile, bigger and wealthier schools can hire substitutes to stay over a period of time, moving from classroom to classroom as needed.

Tulare Joint Union High School district hired four full-time substitutes at each of their sites for the 2021-22 school year. The full-time substitutes in combination with increasing substitute pay from $135 per day to $210 per day worked so well for them that they have hired three full-time substitutes again for the 2022-23 school year.

“If the substitutes are not needed, they support our students in homework labs throughout the day,” Tulare superintendent Lucy Van Scyoc said.

The other issue for schools is the way substitute openings are posted. A school posts an opening and substitutes can pick which openings they want to take. But many substitutes filter out low-income schools or simply have personal preference for some schools over others for a variety of reasons. The virtual job fair will connect substitutes with all the schools that participate.

In a survey of 25 urban, suburban and rural school districts, a 2018 study found that 80% reported having a shortage of qualified teachers in 2017. Of that same group, 82% reported hiring underprepared teachers. When a district can’t fill a position with a qualified teacher, they are not left with any good options. One option could be to hire a long-term substitute, but of course, there is a shortage of substitute teachers now. As a result, districts end up increasing class sizes, canceling courses and simply leaving positions vacant.

When they hire underprepared teachers, it creates a revolving door effect. According to the study underqualified teachers are more likely to leave the position. It makes the shortage worse and causes long-term negative effects for student learning.

The Covid-19 pandemic only exasperated the problem with teacher shortages. Teachers and staff at schools are at a high risk for contracting Covid due to the nature of the hands-on environment at schools, which means teachers are more likely to be absent, and the demand for substitutes goes up. 

“The pandemic just kind of made the teacher shortage and the substitute shortage worse,” Lopez said.

According to Lopez, in an effort to combat long-term teacher shortages there has been an increase in teacher pay across California over the last year. CCTC has yet to see if those shortages have been effective at keeping qualified teachers in their positions, but hope to see improvement as the 2022-23 school year begins.

The CCTC will be holding its second annual virtual substitute teacher fair on Sept. 14 to help connect schools in need of teachers with available substitutes looking for work.

Agencies such as school districts, county offices of education, charter schools, private schools and universities can register to take part in the event to connect with substitute teachers seeking employment. 

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