A national substitute shortage has the Elk Grove Unified School District turning to parents for help.
The Sacramento region’s largest school district sent an email to parents Thursday asking them to contemplate taking a turn in the classroom.
“I am reaching out to EGUSD parents to encourage you to consider serving as a substitute teacher or encourage a qualified family member or friend to do the same,” wrote David Reilly, associate superintendent for human resources. “... This is an excellent opportunity for parents and guardians to serve their children’s school sites and to earn additional income.”
The parent substitutes would have to meet the same standards as all substitute teachers: hold a bachelor’s degree, pass the California Basic Educational Skills Test and obtain a criminal fingerprint clearance.
“The EGUSD Human Resources department can assist you with a fast-tracked process to fulfill these requirements,” Reilly said in the letter.
School districts across the country have struggled with a severe substitute shortage for the last few years as an economic rebound has created better job options. Less experienced teachers who became substitutes after being laid off during the recession have found full-time classroom positions as hiring has increased.
Districts also face greater shortages because teachers have to spend more time away from classrooms to receive training in the new Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards.
The shortage of substitute teachers has resulted in more administrators filling in at elementary schools, students crammed into other classrooms for the day, and high school and middle school teachers forgoing prep periods to cover their colleagues’ classes.
Elk Grove Unified has about 600 people in its substitute pool, although not all are available every day. The district generally needs about 200 substitutes Tuesdays through Thursdays and about 400 Mondays or Fridays, according to district officials.
“If we can round out another 100 spots, I think we will have enough people in place where we don’t have open positions that don’t get filled,” said Elk Grove Superintendent Christopher Hoffman. “If we get significantly more we can open some more professional development during the week.”
Currently, the district is only able to train teachers Tuesday through Thursday because of teacher shortages on Monday and Friday, said district officials.
Hoffman called the district’s parents an “untapped resource. We are looking for folks that have an education background that qualifies them, but they may have never thought about it. They may not have realized that there is a need there,” Hoffman said.
Scott Scidmohr of the Elk Grove Education Association said in an email his group is committed to working with the district on solving a shortage of teachers and substitutes. His labor union represents full-time classroom teachers, not substitutes. But he said the lack of substitutes has had a “negative impact on our members and the students in our district.”
In some elementary schools, for instance, he said schools have been relying on computer resource teachers or learning support teachers to help cover classrooms.
The school district allows substitutes to decide at which schools and grade levels they want to work.
“That means they can potentially become a substitute at their child’s school or at a school nearest to their home,” the district said in a press release.
In recent years, Elk Grove Unified and many Sacramento-area school districts have increased substitute pay to attract more teachers. On Oct. 6, Elk Grove Unified boosted its pay again, increasing the daily base rate to $135. The daily pay increases incrementally to as much as $175 per day as teachers accumulate more days in the district or take long-term substitute jobs.
The district also plans to add substitutes to many of its professional development workshops, Hoffman said. Substitutes who take the training can earn additional pay when they work, district spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton said.
“As challenging as Common Core is, what we are trying to avoid is a teacher having a less than challenging lesson plan because the substitute may not have the skills to pull the lesson off,” Hoffman said.
Pinkerton said she sent the email to more than 30,000 elementary school families Thursday night and was sending the email to middle and high school parents Friday night.
The district had more than 50 calls in response to the email missive a few hours after it was sent, Hoffman said. Many parents called to inquire about a job, while others have forwarded the email to relatives or friends, Pinkerton said.
“This is a win-win situation if you want to take part in your child’s education and have a role in that,” Pinkerton said.