I can't speak for what's happening everywhere, but here the economy is much better than it was a few years ago. People who needed jobs as substitute teachers in 2010 don't need them now. If you have a degree and some experience, you've got a permanent position somewhere---perhaps not even in education.
But our need for qualified teachers, paraeducators, and other support is greater than ever.
We're not the only district experiencing a sub shortage at the moment. And while we can kick around some possible solutions, in the interim it's really hurting professional development opportunities for teachers.
Voters in our state recently passed an initiative to reduce class-sizes. It's a feel-good sort of thing. People like the idea of more personalized attention for students...never mind that the research shows that it's ineffective in all but a few situations. Voters didn't really think the whole thing through. Where are we supposed to get all these teachers---many districts can't fill the positions they already have? Where are all these classrooms going to come from? Most schools don't have the physical space to create dozens of new classrooms. Supplies for all the new classrooms? Are voters going to open their pockets to fund those, too?
I was just reading about a proposal for more STEM-related summer activities and learning for students in grades 5 - 12. Love the idea...and my first thought was "Who will lead it?" There aren't enough teachers to go around---not when you factor in all of the workshops and other professional learning that happens in the summer...let alone the need to recharge for another year.
So to sum up: not enough subs...not enough teachers to staff schools...not enough other adults to support additional programming. If you've been thinking about a career in education (or just a move to Washington state), now's your chance. We have good jobs for you.
But we need to think long-term, as well. Maybe it's about money...but I'm not so sure. Higher pay may well attract people that wouldn't have originally thought about being in the classroom. Maybe we need to think about diversifying the pathways that lead to the classroom. Perhaps it's about better support---adding apprenticeships or other extended learning that help new teachers feel ready to step into their own classrooms.
What are your solutions to the "help wanted" issues in education?