By Zachary Rhine
News & Feature Editor
Substitute teachers are often a class’s dream come true, but that dream may be in trouble as of late. In the past few years the number of substitute teachers in the country, and Pennsylvania specifically, has decreased by more than fifty percent, according to comments from the PA Senate and House Education Committees released in October.
Superintendent of Penn Manor School District, Michael Leichliter, spoke at the state Congress about this substitute teacher shortage. Leichliter explained that Penn Manor, a school only a forty five minute drive from Red Lion, doubled in the number of vacancies left unfilled from the 2013-2014 school year to the 2014-2015 school year.
“As our pool of substitutes has shrunk in relation to those needed just to handle routine sick day and personal day needs of teachers,” said Leichliter, “the number of professional days for teachers has grown, further contributing to our current crisis.”
Not only is the demand for substitutes at an all time high, but the fairly recent Affordable Care Act is also making schools hesitate to schedule the substitutes that they already have. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is commonly known, redefined how many hours a full-time and part-time job entails.
If a substitute is scheduled for more than thirty hours a week then by law they are entitled to certain benefits, salaries, and are considered full-time workers. Schools now have to find a balance with how many teachers they can schedule and also manage an already tight school budget.
“With cuts in education, and hiring, and simply the diminishing of the substitute teaching state,” said Mr. Shue, Red Lion Principal, “the district certainly has been impacted.”
When asked if administrators ever cover any classes, Shue explained, “On occasion, but often students unfortunately have to report to the commons.”
Mrs. Joanne Bouton has been a substitute teacher for fifteen, going on sixteen years at both Red Lion and Dallastown. She planned on only teaching for a year or two, but ended up continuing because of how much she enjoyed it.
She said that she has noticed that the pool of her fellow substitutes has dwindled over the years.
“It’s a shame, too,” said Bouton, “because it’s such a joy to see the kids from elementary grow up, and see how they change going from middle to high school.”
Junior Levi Jones expressed concern about this year’s lack of substitutes. “When Mr. Smith was out for a week after his injury there were many days where we didn’t even have a sub; we were simply told to go to the commons. So now we’re behind from where we need to be.”
With all of the news and struggles that schools deal with day-by-day, few could have guessed that the seemingly bismal component of substitute teachers would cause such dramatic effects when their group began to vanish.
Now two things must happen if this stupple of public schooling is going to continue for future generations: schools must find the budget to schedule more substitutes, and more of the younger generation will need to be enticed to pursue substitute teaching.