As pool shrinks, substitute teachers hard to come by in Minnesota

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Schools in Minnesota are having trouble finding enough substitute teachers to keep classes going when regular teachers get sick.

There's a shortage of substitute teachers in the state, according to the Star Tribune, which mirrors a national trend. For example, the Minneapolis school district has 516 substitute teachers in its pool this year, which is down more than 60 from last year, the paper notes.

As a result, some classroom teachers still come to school even when they're sick, or skip an offsite training opportunity because there's nobody to take their place, according to the Associated Press. And school administrators need to be more creative about finding staff to cover for absent teachers.

The problem is more apparent right now during flu season, when even more teachers are home sick.

STEDI.org, an online teacher training program, says nearly half the school districts it surveyed nationwide said they had a severe or somewhat severe shortage of substitute teachers. And some classes were harder to cover than others, as this graph from STEDI shows.

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Why the shortage?

The shortage is mainly due to the stronger economy.

As the economy improves, more potential substitutes – including new college graduates – are taking full-time teaching jobs or doing work in other fields, which creates a challenge for districts.

And more mid-career teachers are moving on to other professions, leaving more openings to fill, according to Frontline.com, an education software company.

All this means that good substitute teachers can often pick and choose which spots they want to fill, or which schools they want to work, the Star Tribune notes.

Some districts are trying to attract more substitutes by raising their pay – which varies but is generally between $90-$120 per day – and improving the training and orientation process.

The longer term solution is more vexing, and likely will require a broader look at the teaching profession itself, according to Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota, the state's teachers union.

“We have to talk about how we create a bigger, better pool,” Specht said, according to the Star Tribune. “How do we make the teaching profession more attractive?"

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