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In-Depth: San Diego schools struggle with substitute teacher shortage

County Office of Ed offers application assistance
Posted at 6:17 AM, Feb 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-17 10:26:04-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - Even as the omicron surge recedes, San Diego schools continue to struggle with staffing levels. Now, the County Office of Education is stepping up to help fill substitute teacher spots.

"I think we're all feeling the pain to some extent," says Dr. Sheiveh Jones, the Executive Director of Human Resources at the County Office of Education.

"We were already in a place where we were heading towards a teacher shortage, to begin with," says Dr. Jones. "Now we're having a hard time filling those positions, and people are out sick. There is a greater need for substitute teachers."

The extra need comes even as applications skyrocket.

In the 2021-22 school year, the COE has already processed 1.459 substitute teacher credential applications. That's more than the entirety of the 2020-21 year, where the COE processed 749 applications.

In 2019-20, that number was 1,114. In the 2018-19 school year, they processed 1,442.

Typically, all substitute teacher credential applications go through the state. But the County took over approvals to speed up the process.

Waiting time for people who apply for a substitute credential through the state can take a minimum of 50 days. It's taken longer over the past few months.

The County Office of Education turns them around in 2-3 weeks.

The faster turnaround time helps the County get more subs into the system as fast as possible. That's been essential during the recent COVID Pandemic surges.

To qualify as a substitute teacher, applicants need a bachelor's degree. They also must satisfy one of several "basic skills requirements."

That can include:

  • Passing the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST)
  • Passing the California Subject Examinations for Teachers (CSET)
  • Passing the CSU Early Assessment Program
  • Achieve a qualifying score on the SAT or ACT
  • Getting a 3 or higher on an AP English, Calculus, or Statistics Exam
  • Passing a Basic Skills Exam from another state
  • Meeting the requirements through coursework

Sorting through all of that can be daunting for people who want to apply.

To help, the County Office of Education is offering workshops every Tuesday evening to fill out paperwork and answer questions. They hope it can encourage more people to apply.

In the meantime, individual school districts have increased their outreach and recruitment for substitutes. The largest in the County, San Diego Unified School District, posted repeated job application links on Facebook while raising substitute wages to $250-300 per day.

Other districts have also increased pay to entice more substitutes.

"It's definitely more attractive when you think about those six to seven hours you're on campus," says Dr. Jones.

Jones says it can also help people find their passion as educators. She believes increasing the number of substitutes in the County will eventually lead to a more stable supply of teachers.

"My hope is that the folks who are becoming substitute teachers are really interested in becoming (full-time) teachers and enter into a teacher preparation program," says Jones.