Facing a shortage of substitute teachers, Arlington Public Schools has raised its pay rates to attract more candidates.
Teachers have been struggling to find substitutes, leading them to come in on days they wanted to take off or to rely on co-workers willing to cover for them, according to Superintendent Francisco Durán and the Arlington Education Association.
“I personally know staff who’ve chosen to come to work instead of calling out because they knew substitute teachers were so scarce,” said teacher Josh Folb, representing AEA, during a School Board meeting on Thursday. “Unlike the Virtual Learning Program, where some found it acceptable for weeks to let kids sit with absolutely no teacher of any kind, the in-person burden falls on coworkers to double up or split classes, where less learning can occur.”
This is the third reported staffing shortage APS has faced this summer and fall.
Ahead of summer school, the school system had to dial back the number of eligible kids because there weren’t enough teachers willing to teach over the summer, a nationwide phenomenon attributed to pandemic-era burnout. For the first month of school, many students enrolled in the Virtual Learning Program did not have teachers — which APS also attributed to staff shortages — and were placed in waiting rooms with substitutes.
In response to substitute shortage, which is also playing out nationwide, APS increased rates of pay for substitute work, which is typically considered low-paying and inconsistent, and launched a bonus program encouraging substitutes to take on more sub jobs. The plan was presented last Thursday (Oct. 28) during a School Board meeting and went into effect on Monday.
“We will now be the highest-paying in Northern Virginia for substitutes — the front runner — we were fourth or fifth,” Durán said on Thursday. “So we’re moving forward to do that to support our teachers ultimately and also our subs, who are coming in on a daily basis to provide that support when it’s needed. ”
School divisions in the U.S. are facing similar shortages and also offering perks and higher wages. Closer to home, D.C. is spending $40 million to hire contact tracers, substitute teachers and workers to handle COVID-19 logistics in the city’s public school system.
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