Teacher shortages across the country are creating an opening for subs

(Image credit: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

With schools across the country struggling amid a shortage of teachers, historically-underappreciated substitute teachers are having their day in the sun, The New York Times reports.

As years of "low pay, high stress, and challenging working conditions," now exacerbated by COVID-19, push teachers to leave or retire early, temporary instructors have come in to pick up the slack, the Times writes. That said, those same substitutes now find themselves on the "beneficial side of the demand-supply equation," warranting higher wages and steady work.

In some cases, schools have even begun "lowering their standards" as to who can become a substitute teacher; in the last month, both Missouri and Oregon "temporarily removed their college degree requirements for would-be hires" in a testament to how dire the situation has become, per the Times.

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But especially after a year and change of distance learning, parents, educators, and policymakers remain skeptical as to the quality of instruction subtitutes can provide. The method is a "a short-term Band-Aid that shortchanges students," said Kim Anderson, executive director for the National Education Association, to the Times.

It's a "perfect storm," she added. "School districts are really relying on substitutes, because there are many, many teachers who have left the field."

"The art teacher isn't going to deliver the same fourth-grade math instruction that I can," said Amber McCoy, a teacher in West Virginia.

But some subs argue their work is a lot more than meets the eye, claiming there to be very little separating them from full-time teachers. Said North Carolina substitute Deborah Mitchell: "You're not just a teacher, you're the social worker, the shoulder to cry on. It's a lot more than just 'teach me arithmetic.'"

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