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Opinion: Who wants to be a substitute?

By Steve Coulter

There’s another shortage due to the coronavirus pandemic and it’s one you’re probably not thinking about.


School has started and we have a nationwide substitute teacher shortage. And it’s happening right now in Oklahoma.


Substitute teachers are needed to work in classrooms usually because somebody’s sick. Who’s going to be comfortable stepping into that situation?

Steve Coulter, Co-Publisher


“Would you feel safe going into a classroom to cover for a teacher who’s out because she was sick? And don’t know if it’s the coronavirus or why that teacher is out. I think that is scaring some of our faithful substitutes away. Plus many of the substitutes that we have in schools are retired teachers. They are in that age bracket of a health risk,” said Alicia Priest President of the Oklahoma Education Association.


Marvin Goetz an 86 year old substitute teacher from Florida won’t be returning to the classroom this year.


“I don’t want to bring anything home. When you’re working with children [in elementary and middle grades], none of them have a hanky. And you know what they do, they wipe their noses on their sleeves-and what better way to spread a virus,” he said to Education Week.


That concern is echoed across the country. Substitutes don’t want to be committed and then get sick. School officials will tell you they actually had a substitute shortage way before the coronavirus pandemic hit. The virus just exacerbated it.


The substitute teacher shortage is drastic and school officials are now asking for help.


“We’re asking anyone who feels that they have the gifts and graces that it takes to be a substitute to sign up. You can step in and help fulfil a critical role in helping keep our kids safe and their education moving forward,” said Priest.


I know what you’re thinking right now. How much does it pay?


Substitute pay in Oklahoma depends on the school district. Most pay $40 to $50 a day and that’s part of the problem. A lot of people believe the pay is just too low. Especially now during a pandemic. You definitely want to check around because some school districts have added hazard pay this year. It’s up to $100 a day.


Who qualifies to be a substitute teacher in Oklahoma? What are the requirements?


In order to substitute teach in Oklahoma you must have a high school diploma, pass a background check and go through substitute training. That training is provided by the school district.


“The first thing to do is talk to the districts that you want to substitute in. They’ll explain the process and I’m sure they will be eager right now to get you set up and ready to go,” said Priest.




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