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Nebraska schools prepare for substitute teacher shortage

Posted at 6:27 PM, Aug 04, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-04 19:27:14-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Nebraska school districts have been dealing with a shortage of substitute teachers for a while, this year the problem isn't getting any better in the midst of the pandemic.

Do a quick search of the job boards and you'll see lots of openings for substitute teachers for nearly every district in the metro.

Not just anyone can be a sub. You need a certification and background checks. The problem is not everyone who can sub wants to, said Jenni Benson, Nebraska State Education Association President.

“We have a lot of retired teachers who become substitutes. They sub so they can pay for their health insurance, they sub for some extra income" Benson said.

NSEA recently asked 500 retired teachers who are still substitutes if they're planning on working this year.

  • Yes- 33-percent
  • No- 21-percent
  • Not sure- 46-percent

“We have a lot of people who are choosing to retire early or leave the profession at least for the time being because of their health,” Benson said. “When you have retired teachers, they are pushing themselves age wise into that higher risk group.”

Matthew Blomstedt, Nebraska Commissioner of Education, said they're talking about being more flexible with the rules and regulations allowing for local subs.

“The concern to keep schools open is you have to keep the workforce in place,” Blomstedt said. “We have to have the adults there, right? So, if we have events that would put them in further harm’s way or that level of risk, it’s not going to be able to keep all the schools open either. It’s a balancing act on those fronts right now.”

Westside Community Schools hired two full-time substitutes this year to help with the anticipated need.

Millard Public Schools just increased the daily pay rate by $10 and said they've hired four traveling elementary school staff members.

“If you’re a substitute and you’re coming in, how do you get up to date on all of those procedures and know exactly what you should and shouldn’t do in regard to PPE, student behavior, those kinds of things?” Benson said. “That’s always a challenge as a substitute, but it’s a big challenge now to understand.”

Benson suggested, if it comes down to it, school administrators who are licensed to teach should serve as subs in classrooms because they're already familiar with the district’s rules.