LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Nationally, substitute teachers are in demand but in short supply; an issue also being felt throughout the Natural State.
The trend follows national teacher shortages that resulted from COVID, with those filling in for missing staff now facing a shortage of their own.
It’s a crunch Pulaski County Special School District substitute teacher Laura Prejean has seen firsthand. A four-year veteran of the school district, Prejean initially signed up as a way to give back to her community and work a job that included flexible workdays and weekends off.
“It allowed me to work, to make some money, to provide for my family,” Prejean explained. “But it also gives me some flexibility.”
Prejean initially only worked a few days a week, but the arrival of COVID saw her taking on new responsibilities as both temporary and full-time staff walked away.
“I was here every single day,” Prejean said of Chenal Elementary, one of the three PCSSD schools she’s registered at. “I think there may have been some fear [among substitutes].”
Nearly two years later, the demand for qualified subs has only gone up.
According to school staffing company ESS, as of October, there are 990 active substitute teachers across 7 Central Arkansas school districts including LRSD, NLRSD, PCSSD, Lonoke, Mayflower, Academics Plus and Exalt.
This marks a major decrease in the number of substitutes actively working and taking on days, a shortage that is so severe that Prejean’s phone is ringing off the hook.
“I get text messages daily,” she said, adding if she extended her teaching options to the entire district, she couldn’t imagine the inundation of job openings.
Now, ESS and school districts are looking for more substitutes to join the roster, reminding applicants of certain perks like weekends and school holidays off and the ability to help teach kids without having to lesson plan.
To register to teach with ESS, you must be 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, and pass an Arkansas background check.