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A national staffing agency is hoping to lessen the demand for substitute teachers

Substitute Teacher Image
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Education concept.

Ahead of the upcoming school year, a national organization is warning of the ongoing substitute teacher shortage and how those interested in subbing can apply.

Kelly Education is one of the largest staffing agencies for substitute teachers. They work with most, if not all, of the local school districts to provide substitutes when full-time teachers and aides are out of the classroom.

The sub shortage is indicative of the national educator shortage, said Dean Baker Sr., the Senior Director of Client Services, Northeast Practice Area, for Kelly Education.

“It starts at the university level," he said.

Baker noted that there is low enrollment for educator programs across the Commonwealth's system of higher education.

"It's that supply that districts use to fill classrooms from a day to day perspective, as well as cover long terms and vacancies that come from time to time,” he said.

Last year only 6,000 new teachers entered the workforce, according to the state Department of Education. A decade ago, that number was 20,000. The rate of educators, including aids and administrators, leaving the profession continues to accelerate, the state said.

In July, the Department of Education released a strategic four-year plan — The Foundation of Our Economy: Pennsylvania Educator Workforce Strategy, 2022-2025 — to recruit and retain more teachers across the state. The plan has five focus areas that include: meet the educator staffing needs of rural, suburban and urban areas; build a diverse workforce representative of the student population; operate a rigorous, streamlined and customer-service oriented certification process; ensure high-quality preparation experiences for aspiring educators; and provide educator access to high-quality and relevant professional growth and leadership development opportunities.

Baker does have hope going forward into the upcoming school year. While substitute teachers were hesitant to go into the classroom during the pandemic, he said that because of pay increases as well as more widely distributed vaccines and relaxed mandates, the workforce is beginning to take advantage of the flexible scheduling that substituting can offer.

Kelly also recruits substitute teachers.

A bachelor's degree is required to sub in Pennsylvania. Those without teaching certifications or an education degree, can receive an emergency permit through the state.

Retired teachers can also get back into the classroom through Kelly Education. The organization is not a school district so working with them will not impact their state retirement pensions.

“We have a need for passionate folks that want to work in our school districts, teaching our children and it's a great job," Baker said. "Being a teacher really, really enriches the lives of students and as a substitute teacher, just that continuity for the children really, really makes a difference.”

Kat Bolus is the community reporter for the newly-formed WVIA News Team. She is a former reporter and columnist at The Times-Tribune, a Scrantonian and cat mom.