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Schools Across Country, Desperate for Substitute Teachers, Turning to Parents

While the move might be a good quick fix to keep schools open for now, education experts say this model should not be used as a long-term solution for teacher shortages

Elementary School substitute teacher
Photo by Terry Pierson/The Press-Enterprise via Getty Images

A number of schools nationwide facing severe teacher shortages are sending unprecedented callouts to parents asking them to apply to be substitute teachers, but while the move might be a good quick fix to keep schools open for now, education experts say this model should not be used as a long-term solution for teacher shortages.

Schools in Idaho, Colorado, TexasCalifornia, Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts facing massive educator and substitute shortages have all dipped into parent pools over the last year to find candidates.

Substitute shortages had long preceded the pandemic with schools struggling to retain quality candidates, but with recent labor losses in fields across the spectrum and a surge in COVID-19 infections, an already dire situation has been exacerbated.

According to a report by the Rand Corp., a nonprofit research organization, that examined school district leaders' views about staffing at the end of the 2020–2021 school year, as many as 8 in 10 wanted to increase the number of substitute teachers, and 6 in 10 are still working to do so.

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Dr. Uché Blackstock looked at coronavirus prevention strategies like mask mandates ventilation, testing and rates of vaccination before deciding to sending them to New York City public schools. "This is a decision that no parent should have to make, but here we are having to make this decision," Blackstock says.
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