Schools across New York state and the nation are facing serious staffing shortages, and it’s not just full-time teachers they're lacking.

Districts are also dealing with not having enough substitute teachers at a time when teachers around the country have become sick with COVID-19, the flu and RSV, making the need for substitutes a high priority.

What You Need To Know

  • Recent studies found that 3 out of 4 public schools reported higher teacher absenteeism last school year

  • Additionally, 77% of schools are having more difficulties finding fill-in teachers

  • Schools have had to increase substitute recruiting efforts

“We would ask one of our current staff members to take on some extra duty that day, which is something that we do not like to do," Wappingers CSD Superintendent Dwight Bonk said. "I don't believe it's prudent because they've already got their regular schedule and to add to that, I don't think that's optimal.”

But a nationwide teacher shortage also extends to substitutes. Recent studies by the Institute of Education Sciences found 75% of public schools are reporting higher teacher absenteeism, while 77% of schools are having more difficulties finding fill-in teachers.

Bonk says staff have stepped up substitute recruiting to try and keep a steady supply of subs.

“What ends up happening sometimes is that those individuals that come in and they do a great job as a substitute teacher, you have a teaching opening...those individuals, rightfully so, move on from substitute teaching once they've come in and demonstrated their knowledge of the course content," he said.

Recruiting and spreading awareness of the need for subs among folks retired from professions not in the education field is critical. Bonk says New York state can help by making it easier for substitutes to get qualified.

“They could take some courses or certification requirements that are a little less onerous than the ones that currently exist," he said. "That might be one way to improve the amount of individuals who would meet the criteria for substitute personnel within our schools.”

The superintendent also adds raising wages for substitutes could also be a solution, but could also create competition between districts that can afford to pay fill-ins more and those that can’t.