Many school districts in Ohio have begun to offer pay increases for substitute teachers due to staffing shortages. Superintendents in different districts are worried that students may have to go back to online learning like they were doing during the beginning of the pandemic. Central Ohio is in dire need of substitute teachers. The shortage is believed to be mostly from stress that stems from the coronavirus.
“It’s a tough job now,” John Marschhausen, Dublin schools superintendent, said. “With COVID and with the stress on teachers and with all of the things we are dealing with in the public schools there were a lot of folks who could retire and did. And because of that, it created the need for us to hire new teachers.”
Since so many teachers retired in 2020, many districts hired a lot of young teachers that would usually start off as substitutes. There’s also not much interest to go into the field of teaching anymore. A big reason for people not being interested in teaching is low pay, so school districts including Dublin, Bexley, and Upper Arlington are raising their pay for substitute teachers. Dublin has one of the highest pay increases at $180 a day for 61 consecutive days.
President Biden’s administration is setting aside $9 billion in the American Families Plan to address the country’s teacher shortage. Rural communities in Ohio are feeling the impact of the teacher shortage harder than big districts. Since COVID-19 caused schools to turn to remote learning, many substitute teachers left the field to do other things. That’s why these districts are having such a hard time with finding substitute teachers. Substitute teachers are more important at this time because since we’re facing a high rise in the Delta Variant, if a teacher gets sick with COVID, they would need a substitute for at least two weeks to take over for their class.
In some districts, teachers are having to stagger their planning periods throughout the school day so that a teacher could potentially cover another class if need be. A lack of substitutes means that teachers are having to sacrifice more of their planning time so that certain classes aren't stuck without a teacher. Some teachers are even combining classes due to a lack of staffing, meaning that certain teachers are getting double the work.
Currently, you have to hold a bachelor’s degree to be able to become a substitute teacher. There used to be a law that let schools decide to hire substitute teachers on their own terms, which let some people become teachers despite not having a degree. This law expired at the end of the last school year. Some people believe that this lets unqualified people become teachers, but others are trying to renew this bill so that it’ll be easier to get substitute teachers.
While COVID-19 is believed to be the main cause for the shortage of teachers, there have been articles about teacher shortages in Ohio that date back to before the pandemic. Another reason for the teacher shortage is that young people just don’t have an interest in teaching anymore. According to surveys, education was third among the top ten intended majors in 2008, and by 2012 it had dropped to number eight. The Center for American Progress also found that enrollment in teacher preparation programs has been declining. Ohio has had a decline of nearly 50%. Ohio has specifically seen a heavy decline in black and hispanic teachers also, and Ohio already has a lack of diversity among teachers. So, while the pandemic was a large reason for the recent decrease, it definitely wasn’t the main cause. In order to fix the teacher shortages, underlying issues need to be addressed.
Nearly two thirds of students who said they weren’t interested in teaching listed that the main reason was because of the pay. It’s pretty well-known that teachers don’t make a lot of money, and with inflation, careers that pay well are the main priority for a lot of people. Students who said that they were interested in teaching also stated that higher pay would make them more interested. In Ohio, the minimum starting salary for a teacher is only around $30,000 per year. The districts that are considered well-paying are typically only around $40,000.
Along with teachers, lots of Ohio districts are also in need of bus drivers and people to help with food. Schools only have around 30 minutes to feed their students, so if they’re lacking the staff to do so, it could slow down how fast they get their food out which can in turn affect classes. Teachers in some areas are having to help out with driving buses and serving food. Canton City Schools have upped their pay for substitute teachers to an amount that almost matches the pay for full-time teachers.
“Any role in our organization supports our core business, so from a custodian to a person who works in our food service department, and this week is National School Lunch Week, to bus drivers to secretaries to classroom aids to teachers, if you are interested in working with our young folks, we have positions where we are hiring, we are looking for help both full-time and temporary work,” Canton City Schools Superintendent, Jeffery Talbert said.
To help fix the teacher shortage that’s going on in Ohio, lawmakers mainly need to look at things like renewing the bill that allows people without a bachelor's degree to become substitute teachers. Something also needs to be done to increase the teacher minimum wage. This may not immediately fix the teacher shortage, but it will help bring back an interest in teaching since many kids don’t want to even consider it due to the low pay. Schools could also consider trying to get more students to be interested in teaching by implementing programs throughout their school years. By doing these things, Ohio can hope to see an increase in people going into teaching over the next few years, and hopefully schools will start to become less short staffed.