Schools face substitute teacher shortage across Delaware

DELAWARE – Schools across the First State say they’re struggling because of a shortage of substitute teachers. Now, many are trying to figure out how to fix the problem.

“We are really counting on them. The students are counting on them,” says Brenda Wynder, the Lake Forest School District Superintendent.

Substitute teachers are in high demand across the state of Delaware. “We average anywhere from between 20 to 25 absences across the district on a daily basis,” says Travis Moorman, the director of human resources for the Lake Forest School District.

“It would average that we might employ five to six substitutes on any given day sometimes significantly more than that,” says John Sell, the director of support services for Sussex Tech High School.

Most districts are facing the same problem because they often share resources. “Many of the substitute teachers that we use are working in Cape Henlopen, Indian River district, Laurel, Woodbridge, Delmar. They are everywhere and so we are sharing a lot of the same subs and that makes it difficult on all of us,” says Sell.

Officials say the shortage comes down to the low salary. Depending on an applicant’s education, substitutes earn between 110 and 70 dollars a day. “To be quite frank the pay rates sometimes just aren’t as attractive for substitute teachers,” says Sell.

That’s why schools like Sussex Tech are trying to boost that pay up to 125 dollars a day as well as the number of promised hours. “Instead of going from one school one district to another trying to find employment we could offer potentially employment to somebody that’s kind of permanent here up to 29 and a half hours a week,” says Sell.

But not every district can afford to increase salaries for subs. “It’s a challenge for districts like ours we don’t generate as much tax revenue so we don’t have as much available revenue to increase those types of salaries,” says Moorman.

So some officials say the answer may lie at the state level with new guidelines for substitute teachers. “Taking a second look at the compensation for substitute teachers especially for those that already have certifications and retirees with certifications,” says Sell.

Educators say a common misconception is that substitutes need to have teacher certification but there are actually three categories for subs in Delaware. Class A does require certification and they get paid 110 dollars a day. Class B requires a college degree to earn 88 dollars a day. Meanwhile, Class C is below a college degree and they earn 70 dollars a day.

Educators say it would also be useful to change the restriction on certified teachers who are retired. Right now they have to wait about six months after they retire  before they can substitute.

People interested in applying to substitute in Delaware can click here.

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