Nov 8, 2021 - News

D.C.-area schools face sub shortage

A handwriting alphabet above the chalkboard spells out "Hiring."

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Staffing issues, specifically with substitute teachers, are impacting most D.C.-area school districts.

Why it matters: The lack of subs is increasing teacher workload, which makes the already stressful task of teaching during a pandemic even harder.

  • While COVID numbers are down, and vaccines for kids rolled out last week, the ongoing pandemic still requires teachers to take more days off than normal.

What’s happening: Local school districts are competing to attract subs. As a result, we’re seeing substitute teacher pay increases across the region.

But, those efforts may not be working fast enough, as there still aren’t enough subs to fill the need. And teachers continue to resign and take leave amid mounting pandemic-related stress on educators.

  • “It’s a vicious cycle. The more stressed out people become, the more leave that they take, which means more subs that we need,” Prince George's County Educators' Association president Donna Christy tells Axios.

Christy says when there aren’t enough subs to go around, teachers often have to add students into their classrooms or miss their planning periods to teach other classes.

Zoom in: D.C. Public Schools has seen a 22% decrease in substitute teachers from the 2019-2020 school year to this school year.

  • The school district tells Axios it’s actively recruiting more subs and has increased the total compensation package for long-term substitute teachers.

In Prince George’s County, some of the areas facing the greatest sub shortage are elementary schools and special education programs, Christy tells Axios.

Fairfax County Public Schools tells Axios it’s able to fill about 70% of its daily substitute teacher need.

  • The district wasn’t able to provide data on substitute teacher openings because they don’t have a fixed number, but they do have 147 teacher vacancies out of 15,000 total teachers.
  • The county school board voted last month to increase sub teacher pay $1-$3 per hour based on the type of sub.

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