TWIN FALLS — Numerous school districts across the state are experiencing a shortage of substitute teachers. While there is a concern, Governor Brad Little has recently taken steps to try and close the gap and expand the number of available substitutes for schools to help support in-classroom learning.
The Twin Falls School District is just one of the many districts experiencing these issues. Right now, the district has a pool of 90 substitutes, and while it sounds like a large number of candidates, they're not always available to work.
The other outstanding issue is that many of the substitute teachers that the district has accessibility to are also substitutes for school districts in neighboring communities. So, there are times when the Twin Falls School District may have a need, yet the person they need could already be a work in another town.
“Every day we are short on subs," said Brady Dickinson, the Superintendent for the Twin Falls School District. "There was one day this week when we were down 11, and when that happens, that means you have 11 classrooms that don’t have a substitute teacher. So, that means we have to combine classes.”
When classrooms combine, teachers have less time to prep, and in some situations, other staff members have to be pulled to assist with a large number of students. In these scenarios as well, the quality of the services that the school provides tends to be reduced.
To help resolve these issues, Little has put $10 million towards new "Substitute Teacher Recruitment Grants." The funds will be used to help recruit and retain a sustainable number of substitute teachers.
“This is a tough market for hiring employees, and school district resources are limited," said Dickinson. So, any additional funds that we can utilize to potentially attract employees, is going to be important.”
The details of the grant are still being learned, yet schools will have to apply for the funding needed, and funding will most likely be distributed by district size.
In Twin Falls, substitutes without a teaching degree earn $95 per day. A sub with a teaching degree earns $110 per day. To create more incentive for people to apply, the grant money will be used to offer bonuses for consistent substitutes.
“We’re offering a bonus to substitutes who sub 15 days a month," said Dickinson. "So, any sub that subs 15 days a month receives a $300 bonus.”
Governor Little also mentioned that employees of the State of Idaho Executive Branch Agency can also benefit by taking paid time off to work as a sub without using sick days or vacation days.
“It’s a creative idea, and I think we’re all open to thinking outside the box and coming up with solutions that are going to work,” said Dickinson.
The Twin Falls School District is now working to get the word out to the community and is encouraging anyone interested to apply as soon as possible to help close the gap. However, there are some qualifications needed.
“You have to have a high school diploma, pass a drug screen, and a background check," said Dickinson. "We do provide some training to people when they come on, there’s some onboarding there that goes in.”
People can head to the district's website to apply and even have the choice of selecting which age group they can work with.