When Amber McCoy, a fourth-grade teacher in Huntington, West Virginia, phoned in ill this autumn, there was no replacement available to take her place in the classroom.
Kellogg Elementary School was instead taught by a rotating cast of seven staff members, including the assistant principle, who switched off every 45 minutes to ensure that her kids received a quality education.
The principal, Ms. McCoy, said that the school is reliant on “every other warm person in our school.” Her current concern is that multiple instructors will be absent at the same time and that there will be no one to fill in.
Across the nation, some schools are taking steps in this direction. Due to an overabundance of staff employees taking the day off after the Veterans Day holiday, Seattle public schools will be closed on Friday. This month, a school district in Michigan has already shuttered its doors for a number of days. Some Colorado public schools have also switched to remote learning this week, while others have postponed classes entirely, according to the Denver Post.
The scarcity has grown so severe that substitute teachers, who have traditionally received modest wages, have found themselves on the favourable side of the supply-demand equation for the first time in their careers. As a result, incomes have increased in certain situations, and jobs have become more stable.
Nonetheless, as the financial constraint persists, some schools are decreasing their criteria for substitute instructors, which were already lower than those for full-time faculty members to begin with. The situation has deteriorated to the point that at least two states, Missouri and Oregon, have temporarily waived their college degree requirements for prospective employees in the past month.
Parents, educators, and officials have expressed worry about the quality of education as a result of the changes. The combination of school closures and online learning has previously been shown to cause considerable learning deficits among children.
While Ms. McCoy expresses gratitude to the school staff members who stepped in to teach her fourth graders, she acknowledges that the majority of them were unqualified to do so.
Substitute teachers, according to Kim Anderson, executive director of the National Education Association, which represents millions of education employees throughout the nation, are “a short-term Band-Aid that shortchanges children.”
The issue begins with the demand for additional full-time instructors in many school systems, which is a contributing factor. According to one survey, approximately 1,400 teachers departed the profession in Arizona during the first few months of the school year. This is a 4% drop from the previous year. According to a video produced by the president of the Florida Education Association, Andrew Spar, approximately 5,000 teacher openings were available at the start of the school year in Florida this year.
Low pay, high levels of stress, and difficult working circumstances have been a problem for the profession for many years. Ms. Anderson, however, said that instructors are quitting or retiring early because of their fear of catching the coronavirus, which she describes as “the perfect storm.”
According to Sharon Reese, the district’s top human resources officer, more than 180 individuals sought to serve as substitutes in Portland public schools, the state’s biggest system, in the two weeks after the passage of the legislation.
In Miami, Joshua Hicks, a 26-year-old PhD student in sports management, began substituting while still in graduate school. When the epidemic put a halt to his plans, he began replacing on a more regular basis. He currently works as a teacher at the Arthur & Polly Mays Conservatory of the Arts, a public school where he teaches a variety of subjects ranging from physical education to dance to history.
Moreover, if schools continue to depend on substitutes to make up for lost time, some educators are concerned that too many classrooms may be transformed into a type of babysitting.