Child Care Substitute Teachers: The Demand For Care and New Solution

October 26, 2023

Substitute teachers have always been in short supply, but needs have grown substantially since the COVID-19 pandemic. Currently, 20% of requests for substitute coverage are being left completely unfilled. And child care providers without access to substitute teacher pools are experiencing even greater concerns.

How can we help? By supplying adequately trained, well-paid substitute teachers for child care centers and in-home daycares across the United States.

The Growing Need for Substitute Teachers in Schools and Child Care Centers

Substitute teachers are desperately needed in classrooms of all kinds, from public schools to in-home and center-based child care settings. The following statistics showcase the current state of the workforce along with its growing need:

The “substitute teacher crisis” at a glance:

  • 77% of schools reported increased difficulty finding substitute teachers in recent years, with 61% reporting “much more difficulty.”
  • Education leaders see the need for substitutes continuing to grow as older employees retire and are replaced with young parents who need time off to care for their own children while ill.
  • The lack of quality substitute teachers has been linked to child care business closure and career challenges for parents.
  • Child learning setbacks become a concern when substitutes aren’t found, as solutions include coverage by untrained staff or multiple classrooms being combined with a single adult.

Why is it so difficult to find substitute teachers?

  • Substitute teachers are often underpaid and not offered benefits or consistent work schedules, making it a difficult field for recruitment.
  • Substitutes may prefer to avoid challenging placements, such as lower-income schools, high-needs districts, or younger age groupings such as early childhood classrooms.
  • Child care centers often do not have the resources to maintain a substitute teacher pool like public schools.

How is this dilemma being seen in the child care industry versus public schools?

  • The need is exasperated in child care, often causing centers to close for days at a time when substitute teachers are not found.
  • The inability to provide consistent child care has led to centers and family daycare providers going out of business.

How does the substitute teacher crisis affect home-based, family child care providers?

  • Most family child care providers need to close for the day when they are ill due to a lack of substitutes. They may also need to close when their own children are ill.
  • Not having access to substitute teachers has caused family child care providers to leave their profession due to increased pressure to stay open in times of sickness.

How do these statistics affect families and employers across the country?

  • When child care providers close, parents are forced to use sick days or cut down on hours to care for their children at home.
  • This leads to decreased workforce participation and in turn, a slower economy.

The Impact of Substitute Teacher Shortages on Child Care and Education Quality

The ongoing shortage of substitute teachers greatly impacts the quality of child care and education. As providers struggle to fill these essential roles, the continuity of learning and a stable educational environment are compromised. This shortage not only places additional stress on full-time educators, who are often required to cover extra work, but it also directly affects students, who face disruptions in their learning journey.

The lack of substitute teachers may mean students join larger classes, be supervised by non-teaching staff, take part in less effective learning activities or be unable to attend as the school has to close. This undermines the personalized attention and quality instruction that are important for student engagement and success. Moreover, the ripple effects extend beyond the classroom, affecting parents as they scramble to find alternatives when schools cannot operate normally.

Bridging the Gap: Wonderschool's Role in Alleviating the Substitute Teacher Shortage Through Government Partnerships

At Wonderschool, we’re doing everything we can to support child care providers. Most recently, we’ve recently partnered with Mississippi to create a statewide Substitute Teacher Pool that child care centers and family providers can call on in times of need. We recruit, screen, train, and onboard substitute teachers so that requesting coverage is the providers’ only responsibility.

This model has proven effective due to:

  • The ability to provide reliable, pre-screened substitute teachers for all forms of early child care
  • Consistent work schedules and optimal pay and benefits packages for substitutes
  • Additional efforts in creating and maintaining high-quality home-based child care seats  in areas of need

Become Part of the Solution with Wonderschool

We're thrilled to deploy our Child Care Substitute Teacher Pool in Mississippi, and we’d love to see similar initiatives spread across the country. Contact our government support team to learn more about what a partnership with your city, county, or state could look like today.

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