Some school districts seeing more interest in substitute teaching positions

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — School districts are still trying to fill big staffing and substitute teacher shortages. That’s why an Oregon commission recently changed the rules, waiving the need for a bachelor’s degree, to help school districts attract more candidates.

It’s been a little over a month since the state commission added a new emergency license allowing more people to become substitute teachers. The Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) made the change and is now issuing emergency substitute teaching licenses.

Brian Turner, director of recruitment and staff for Salem-Keizer Public Schools, said while the state commission only requires those applying for the special license to be 18 years old, the district has an additional requirement: a high school diploma. Previously, substitute teachers had to have a bachelor’s degree. Even so, Turner said they’re adding substitutes to their pool every day.

“I think that we’re seeing a light in the tunnel thanks to the TSPC emergency license. That’s been a big hit,” Turner said.

Turner said more than 110 people have applied to become substitute teachers in the last month, with 15 people already in the classroom with an Emergency Substitute Teaching License.

“The opportunities are greater than they’ve ever been in terms of TSPC’s rule changing, allowing folks to get into the classroom if they go through a process,” said Turner.

The need is great. According to the TSPC, in December of 2019 prior to COVID-19, Oregon had 8,290 licensed substitute teachers.

As of September of 2021, that number is down to 4,738. Add other positions that also need to be filled in addition to substitute teachers, and the need is even greater. Some say the shortage is due, in large part, to the pandemic.

But when it comes to substitute teaching in particular, Turner said the process to become one has become easier. He said those interested need to apply to both the district as well as the TSPC in order to get the license.

Turner said the district is responsible for reimbursing the roughly $187 licensing fee. The license is temporary, meant for just this school year. People who have the license can only work 10 consecutive days in a certain assignment. For instance, if a person stepped in to be a substitute teacher for a social studies class, they could not sub for that same class for more than 10 days in a row.

“The reasoning behind that logic makes sense. TSPC really wants you to have a teaching license in that content area if you’re going to stay in that classroom for more than 10 days,” said Turner.

However, Turner said in a district as large as Salem-Keizer, there would be opportunities to work every day.

The decision to hire substitute teachers with the Emergency Substitute Teaching License varies by district.

The Beaverton School District has not started utilizing substitute teachers with the Emergency Substitute Teaching License.

A spokesperson for Portland Public Schools said it had received 331 applicants with 170 of them in the interview phase. They hope to start placing applicants in classrooms as early as the week after Thanksgiving.


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