The problem’s always been around. But a shortage in substitute teachers is yet another issue made worse by the pandemic.
With children back at school and learning in-person, there is pressure on districts to find enough substitute teachers to fill in if their regular teachers need to quarantine or get sick, and some are offering a pay raise.
Anyone looking for a job as a substitute teacher will have luck at a number of school districts in Southern California. Recently some districts even voted to offer more money.
"It’s become an arms race, if you will. You have several school districts in a relatively small geographic area like Southern California where you could have 40 some odd school districts within 10 or 15 miles of one another," said Mario Di Leva, executive director of the Torrance Teacher’s Association.
Leva explains that in general, schools have always struggled with teacher shortages because of a lack of people choosing it as a career, but says the pandemic has made things worse.
"People who are looking for work may not want to work in a place where there’s a lot of unvaccinated people like children," Leva said.
Neighboring Long Beach schools are dealing with similar problems.
David Zaid with Long Beach Unified School District said some of their substitute teachers stopped working because they had children of their own who needed them to stay home during distance learning because of the pandemic.
"As vaccination rates do increase, that there are some substitutes who just having that additional comfort allow them to re-engage," Zaid said.
Both Long Beach and Torrance Unified School Districts will raise pay for substitute teachers in October, with Long Beach offering $192 for a 6-hour work day and Torrance offering $175 for those same hours.
Meanwhile, LAUSD says they are not offering a pay increase for their substitute teachers, saying their pay is already higher than other nearby districts.
But the state’s largest school district reports 502 teaching vacancies at the start of this year compared to 113 in 2019.
For now, other local districts are hoping their pay incentives will start to fill the job openings.
"We are hiring. We are accepting applications. We need you," Zaid said.
Long Beach Unified says that when they don’t have enough substitute teachers, they have to use other school staff members, like a principal, who needs to go in and fill that position.
Correction: An earlier version of this article provided an incorrect figure for the amount of money being offered to substitute teachers in the Torrance Unified School District.