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Michiana schools struggle with substitute teacher shortage

ABC 57 first told you about a shortage of substitute teachers in the state of Indiana.

After taking a closer look, we found it's not just happening in the state, but across the nation.

And now many schools here in Michiana have to depend on a small staff to run full classrooms.

Some classes at Emmons Elementary School are depending on support staff to fill in for each other. I spoke with a district official from School City of Mishawaka, and he says even though the pool of subs is shrinking, the district does all it can to make sure classes are always in session.

It's math day for these second graders in Emmons elementary.

Teacher Cara Patton is in today to lead the class of about 20 students.

But when she's out, finding her substitute can be challenging.

“it is a competitive marketplace to get substitute teachers and we certainly have felt the shortage of substitutes as well," said Dan Towner, the Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction for the district.

Towner has seen the number of people looking to fill substitute jobs plummet over the past few years, leaving the school to rely on other full-time teachers for help.

“Sometimes other staff members are able to step in for the day to fulfill that role," he said. "Sometimes students might be divided up to participate with another class that day.”

Emmons is one of many schools that directly hires subs.

And for the $70 dollars-a-day pay, the hiring requirements are basic.

“60 college credits it could be in any particular area," said Towner. "Applicants would certainly have to pass a background check and we require that they attend an in-service training program if they haven't had prior teaching experience.”

But some parents believe the requirements can be too lax.

“I heard of a teacher that was abusing the kids and I reported it immediately," said parent Susan Styles. "I was diligent and thankfully the principal finally investigated it and found out I was correct and that teacher was escorted out. I hope she never teaches again.”

Styles thinks the best way Emmons can reach more subs is by offering more competitive pay.

While it might cost more, she thinks the change will lure more qualified candidates.

“They don't offer the same salary that Penn does for substitutes so that gets them right there but it's vital to our kids,” said Styles.

The district currently employs 45 substitutes across 11 schools in the district and is looking to hire at least 10 more this year.

I also talked to the owner of a sub-placement organization that staffs in Berrien and Cass counties and he says low pay, more jobs in other fields and the affordable care act are key factors in the shrinking pool.

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