Montgomery County Public Schools are struggling to find substitute teachers this year, and it is impacting other staff. The stress level of teachers covering for them is increasing, while faculty continues to decrease. Due to substitute shortage not only is impacting MCPS, but the entire country.
Schools around the state and county, such as Virginia Beach School, are releasing students and ending the day early because there is barely enough staff to cover for the classes. Many substitutes who are older are concerned about being exposed to COVID, so they are declining to cover classes. Montgomery County Education Department (MCED) states that 161 teaching positions and 116 paraeducator positions are unfilled at this moment. Most of the time the calls for subs goes unanswered, which puts the teachers in the building in a position of being forced to cover other classes. This could mean that teachers could lose their planning periods or lunch breaks at any point. Having to teach in your own class and then classes that you were pretty much unaware of having to teach is tough.
NSL Government teacher, Ms. Debra Delavan, states “It’s hard to have additional responsibilities when I already work extra hours to be effective at my job.” Often teachers who are well prepared usually leave things for the class to do, which allows the students and the impromptu sub to be efficient with their own work during the class period.
A considerable amount of substitutes lost their jobs during COVID. Over quarantine they had to reapply because additional mandates and qualifications were needed during COVID and online school. Now that schools are in need of in-person teachers, they have started to ease credentials to allow for more substitutes to start working again. Now, the requirements for a substitute are 60 college credits or an associate degree, whereas before many types of training courses and licenses were required.
The main reason for substitute shortage seems to be their payment. MCPS substitutes get paid about $15-$19 an hour. Teachers who sub in emergencies claim that they get paid very little compared to the extra work they put in, their yearly salary is $67,946 and working more than 60 minutes and just earning $15-$19 for it is not rational. Ms. Delavan says, “It’s almost a slap in the face, [it’s like saying] we’re gonna give you $15 for losing your time.”
What has MCPS been doing to handle the matter? The answer seems to be nothing. There haven’t been any plans to discuss the matter until recently at Nov 9th’s Board Meeting. MCPS announced a calendar change to the day before Thanksgiving, which was originally a half day, but will now be a non-instructional day. Beyond that, there have been no released plans to improve the conditions for subs or teachers. On the other hand, Firefax County of Virginia, has confirmed to raise the substitute pay by $1-$3. Similarly, Howard County was heard to do the same but are still having early release days to allow more planning time. This won’t be a positive change for MCPS faculty since the substitutes that would work for the county, will now find jobs in Howard County due to the higher salary.
MCPS staff have been encouraging MCPS to do more to solve this issue. The amount of workload teachers have to deal with is becoming unbearable and could start to affect student’s education if it isn’t handled. Hopefully, MCPS will absolved this ongoing concern and improve the work life of its employees.