DC substitute teachers cite low pay, lack of benefits for ‘mass exodus’ – NBC4 Washington

New analysis shows that DC public schools are facing a severe shortage of substitute teachers heading into the new school year, which could impact classrooms this fall.

The number of replacements on the DCPS payroll has dropped nearly 50% from the start of the pandemic to the start of 2022.

Many substitutes have skills that translate to other jobs in other fields, according to Myrtle Washington, president of Washington Substitute Teachers United. That, coupled with COVID concerns, has spurred what she calls a “mass exodus.”

“They pay more money. So … a number of substitute teachers have decided to leave, and not only that, it’s also for security reasons,” Washington said. “We would like to be treated as professionals and not just as substitutes.”

According to a recent analysis from a local research group DC Policy Center, the number of replacements on the DCPS payroll fell from 987 in early 2020 to 501 in the first quarter of 2022.

It’s unclear exactly how many replacements will enter in the upcoming school year, as DC’s public employee salary database has not yet been updated with data from the last quarter.

News4 has repeatedly attempted to contact DCPS to ask about the surrogate shortage and what is being done to address it, but has received no response.

“We are needed. We knew that before, but we knew that even more after going through the pandemic,” Washington said.

Having fewer substitute teachers has a ripple effect in the classroom. Full-time teachers are more dispersed and administrators sometimes have to deviate from their usual roles to fill in the gaps.

“The children have to go to another class. They divided the class. Some go to only one class. Some go to another class,” Washington said.

Washington said if schools want to attract quality substitute teachers, they need to make them feel like an integral part of the schools. She said she continues to teach as a substitute because she is passionate about helping students.

“I know I’m having an impact, and I look forward to the impact I get from the students, because I get a lot of love,” she said.


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