The Washington State Legislature has been trying to fix our education system for years. This year, they've got a new challenge to deal with: a teacher shortage. According to a survey from the state's Office of Superintendent Public Instruction, 58 percent of elementary school principals say they are in crisis mode trying to find qualified substitute teachers.
Adam Couch, the principal of Dick Scobee Elementary School in Auburn, said he’s never seen a shortage like this before. He struggles two to three times a week to find substitute teachers and sometimes has to cancel P.E., music and library classes as a result.
“For those kids who don’t have the teacher or sub, that means they’re probably not really getting intended instruction for the day. It’s just busy work,” Couch said.
According to Couch, one reason behind the shortage is that voters approved an initiative requiring lower class sizes, forcing schools to open additional classes. Also, not enough teachers are coming out of university to fill open positions.
Nate Gibbs-Bowling, an Advanced Placement government teacher at Lincoln High School in Tacoma, said the real problem is that society doesn’t value the teaching profession.
“Being a teacher has become a position that some people see as less desirable,” said Gibbs-Bowling. “A lot of teachers have their work dictated to them and don’t feel like they have autonomy. And if you compound that with not being treated like a professional and low pay, it’s kind of a no brainer.”
Several bills are on the table in Olympia to address the shortage including a proposal that would promote alternate routes to teaching, instead of just traditional masters degrees.