Schools face sub shortage

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BELOIT — Area schools are experiencing substitute teacher shortages in line with national trends.

Illinois schools see thousands of teacher absences each week. The schools cannot find enough substitutes to cover more than weekly 3,000 absences or 18 percent of total absences (600 classrooms per day), according to a press release from the Illinois Association of Regional Superintendents of Schools (IARSS).

The survey is a follow-up to a fall 2015 review of teacher shortages by IARSS that found Illinois schools are struggling to employ teachers in key subjects. The Legislature approved legislation, which the Illinois Governor signed earlier this month, reducing substitute teaching license fees.

South Beloit School Superintendent Scott Fisher said the substitute teacher shortage is a challenge. Because of the shortage, subs might only be obtained if schools have at least one or two days of advanced notice that a teacher will be absent. However, if a teacher calls in sick that morning, the school may not be able to get a substitute to cover that day.

“We sometimes will have to use internal staff if a teacher calls in the day of being sick,” he said.

South Beloit schools use substitutes available through the Boone and Winnebago Regional Office of Education.

Currently, they have 340 on the list which serves a variety of districts in southern Illinois. Its peak was in 2011 when there were 658 subs. By 2013, there was 398. Its lowest was in 2015 when there were only 156, according to Lori Fanello, regional superintendent of schools for Boone and Winnebago Counties.

“It’s positive the numbers are picking back up, and we are trying to get more subs,” she said

Fanello said 13 districts in Boone and Winnebago County are on the sub list. One factor for the decreasing amount of subs could be the application fees. It’s $50 for the application process, $60 to register with the state and $45 for fingerprinting in addition to the cost of a physical done by a doctor.

Although registration rate dropped from $100 to $50, Fanellos said it’s still too costly for many people and there’s no guarantee the sub will get called.

To try make substitute teaching more attractive, South Beloit has raised its daily pay from $85 to $95 per day.

In Illinois, Fisher said, people don’t have to be a certified teacher. They can substitute teach with a 4-year degree.

“Sub shortage in Illinois is an issue,” Fisher said. “The other issue is there’s less people going in education in general which has a domino effect of people available to sub.”

Rockton School Superintendent Glenn Terry said traditionally, a sub shortage has been somewhat of an issue.

“It is probably a little worse this year. We currently pay subs $85 per day. My guess on why it's getting worse is we have an overall shortage of teachers in the state. When we have a surplus of teachers, many without full-time jobs will sub,” Terry said.

School District of Beloit Executive Director of Human Resources Deetra Sallis said a sub shortage is also an issue in Beloit as well. As of Thursday, she said there were a total of 62 substitute teachers needed in the district.

“We filled 54 and have 8 unfilled job. Other days it’s much worse,” Sallis said.

When there isn’t a substitute available, classes have to be collapsed and staff has to be creative in how to deal with it. Other teachers can lose planning periods because of having to fill in for absent teachers without subs.

She said Beloit’s daily subs early $105 per day. Because of the shortage, most subs can work everyday in the district, although they won’t know where they are working or which grades. Subs must hold a bachelor’s degree and apply for sub license through the Department of Public Instruction. At this time, the district doesn’t train people although there are online tools subs can be referred to watch.

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