Nation faces teacher shortage — even substitutes are tough to find

“I think there are always higher [teaching] needs because there's even a smaller pool when it comes to higher grade levels, such as math and science, foreign language, and special ed,” says Mike Teng, CEO of Swing Education. Photo by Shutterstock.

School districts nationwide are feeling the staffing pain. Some are offering subs higher pay, while others, like in Oregon, have dropped requirements for substitutes to have a college degree

As a result of low supply and high demand, many districts are scrambling, says Mike Teng, CEO of Swing Education. His business pairs substitute teachers with school districts in six states, including California and Washington, D.C.  

“They say, ‘When can we start? How many substitute teachers can you give us? How much does it cost?’ I think people are pretty desperate. So oftentimes, it's just like, ‘Mike, what does your contract look like?’ And they want to get right into it,” Teng tells KCRW. 

Many subs are concerned about vaccinations among students in the classroom and in their own families, he says. “We have had some substitute teachers tell us that they still are really interested in being substitute teachers and getting into the classroom, but that they want to wait until students ages 5-11 can be vaccinated. Maybe that includes their own kids.”

Currently, he says Swing Education does not have enough teachers to meet the high demand of the districts the company works with. 

“[Needs] cover the whole spectrum. I think there are always higher needs because there's even a smaller pool when it comes to higher grade levels, such as math and science, foreign language, and special ed. Those will always be, I think, in particularly high demand and low supply.”