Increasing sub shortage in Unit 5

Vacant teaching positions go unfilled by substitutes every day in Unit 5. In a district with over 900 teachers, it has shown to be difficult to find a replacement for every teacher that needs one. In a district as large as Unit 5, consistently finding substitute teachers has become a growing problem.

Mrs. Julie Hagler is part of a committee trying to solve the problems that have created the shortage. “The group looks into the sub shortage and addresses issues,” Hagler said, “like how much they are paid, their working conditions… and the technology they have to work with.”

In a September 12 school board meeting, a group of substitute teachers, fighting for better pay for subs, addressed the sub shortage and how they felt about the payment of subs. “The committee met twice,” Hagler said. “They look at how much subs are paid, we pay subs the same amount that District 87 does, if we raise it they will likely follow.”

Substitute teachers in Unit 5 have not seen an overall pay raise in almost two decades with the daily pay rate for Monday through Thursday set at $80. In February of 2017, Unit 5 increased the Friday pay rate to $90  The $10 raise was an attempt to remedy the fact that Friday sees the most unfilled teaching positions district-wide. Retired Unit 5 teachers receive $100 on regular weekdays and $110 on Fridays.

One factor in the substitute shortage may be that Unit 5 retired teachers have a limit on how many days they can work. “currently Unit 5 retired teachers can only work 120 days,” Hagler said. Retired Unit 5 teachers are the only substitutes that are capped in terms of how many days they are allowed to substitute.

Rick Myers, a retired Unit 5 teacher turned substitute, doesn’t think that it is unreasonable that retired teachers have a limit of 120 days since they make $20 more a day than regular substitutes.

At NCHS, some positions that require subs have to be filled by teachers due to the decreased number of substitute teachers able to fill those spots. “There have been times where there wasn’t a sub available to fill my spot and a certified staff member has had to take my spot,” Hagler said. “I have also had to sub for another teacher.” Teachers who are filling in for other teachers receive $22.20 per period.

The district decided to raise pay on Fridays last year due to the 85% fill rate on Fridays opposed to the 94% Monday-Thursday. “A lot more teachers are absent on Fridays,” said Hagler. “Which makes it harder to find coverage.”

While the fill rate for teachers is relatively high, the percent of jobs being filled daily for assistant teachers was seventy percent last year which is concerning for district officials.

It could be the registration fee that is turning people away from becoming a licensed sub.

“I don’t think the fee change will help that much,” Hagler said. “I think there’s a shortage of subs because there are not as many people going into education.”

Unit 5 recently changed the registration fee for district substitute teachers from $200 to $150 in hopes that the decrease will encourage more people to become subs.