Minnesota and North Dakota educators’ unions highlight supply teacher shortage

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The North Dakota Educators Union has joined the Minnesota campaign titled “At a Tipping Point: Educating During COVID-19” as issues cross state borders, said Nick Archuleta, president of North Dakota United.

Educators’ unions from both states held a joint press conference Wednesday, Dec. 8 at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel in Moorhead, Minnesota, to draw attention to the issue. And on Tuesday, unions met with the Editorial Board of the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead to stress that the lack of substitute teachers puts too much pressure on full-time and retired teachers, who often work as substitutes, to the point that many are moving away from the profession.

“We don’t have enough adults in our schools in all areas, but mostly substitutes. The impact is felt by their colleagues who replace them, ”said Denise Specht, president of Education Minnesota. “Even before the pandemic, there was a shortage of teachers and a shortage of substitute teachers, and COVID has really brought it to light. Retired educators, who tend to be the go-to people for substitute teaching, are not at all interested in taking on these roles. “

Substitute teacher positions need to be competitive, Archuleta said.

Currently a substitute teaching position in Fargo pays $ 112 per day, in West Fargo the district pays $ 112 per day and Moorhead pays $ 114.25 per day.

Some of the millions of dollars in federal pandemic aid Minnesota and North Dakota have received should be used to help attract and retain substitute teachers, union presidents said.

Archuleta said the workload for many teachers is reaching a breaking point in part because of the shortage of substitute teachers. Higher salaries for teachers and substitutes are only part of the solution, he said, adding that the job satisfaction of teachers and the promise of teacher preparation for a different field could be. additional solutions.

Jean Sando, an English teacher at Moorhead High School and chairman of the district teachers’ union, agreed, saying in some schools students are “put on hold” and some second graders are at kindergarten level. due to a lack of substitute teachers. .

Kristi Rowekamp, ​​an elementary interventionist in Moorhead and vice president of the local union, said that due to the need to replace teachers, many students are not getting the interventions they need to learn properly.

Jeff Offutt, a social studies professor at the college, also chairman of local union membership rights, said teachers received phone calls when substitute teachers were needed. Now they get a daily email indicating the need at Horizon Middle School.

At Fargo Public Schools, director of human resources Doug Andring said that since the start of the pandemic, the district has become creative in the way it recruits substitute teachers and scours local universities.

The district has had difficulty recruiting replacements because “some people are still reluctant to enter the workforce with the pandemic still ongoing,” Andring said.

The Fargo School District used federal dollars to hire 30 long-term substitute teachers, Andring said. A long-term replacement is paid $ 224.64 per day at Fargo Public Schools.

The West Fargo School District used federal funds to hire 20 full-time substitute teachers. A long-term replacement at West Fargo is paid $ 204.38 per day.

Finding substitute teachers is not a funding issue, said Kristin Dehmer, executive director of human resources and operations for Moorhead area public schools. The district doesn’t care about retaining substitute teachers, but has seen far fewer applicants, Dehmer said.

Substitute teachers in North Dakota can find jobs relatively more easily because they are not required to have a full teaching license. In Minnesota, however, potential substitute teachers need a bachelor’s degree to obtain a replacement license, Specht said.

Since December 1, public schools in the Moorhead area have increased the salaries of substitute teachers and offer free lunches. The remuneration of substitute para-educators was increased by 25 cents to $ 14.75 per hour, Dehmer said. A long-term substitute teacher makes about $ 225.21 a day.

Public schools in the Moorhead area are not using federal bailout funds to hire more substitute teachers at this time because it is “one-time funding and cannot be used for teachers. recurring costs, so we would not use this funding to permanently increase replacement salaries. Moorhead has hired permanent subs for each vessel that report daily to support the shortage, ”Dehmer said.

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