Teacher and Substitute Shortage in Washington State
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Teacher and Substitute Shortages in Washington State

School district human resource directors and principals across Washington report that it is becoming increasing difficult to find K–12 certificated teachers not only in areas that have experienced shortages for many years (e.g., special education, mathematics, science), but also teachers with elementary education (Grades K–8) and Early Childhood (Birth–Grade 3) endorsements.

Human Resource Director and Principal Surveys
In Fall 2016, a survey of school District Human Resource Directors on the teacher and substitute shortage was conducted by OSPI in collaboration with the Washington Personnel Association. A total of 113 directors responded, representing approximately 38% of the state's school districts.

Human Resource Directors were asked about their ability to hire qualified certificated candidates for their teaching positions. Of those who responded, 23% indicated that they were in "crisis", 74% stated that they were "struggling, but getting by", and 2.7% said they were doing "fine".

When asked to compare the challenge in finding certificated teachers and substitutes this fall compared to last fall, 73% indicated that it was "more" or "much more" challenging, 23% stated it was about the "same", and 4% indicated it was "less challenging".

A survey of principals also was conducted in fall 2016. The findings of this survey reflected the finding from the Human Resource Director's survey.

Factors Causing the Shortage
The shortage is a result of a number of factors, including:

  1. Implementation of state-funding for full-day kindergarten
  2. Continued phase-in of K–3 class size reduction funding
  3. An increase in school district hiring of teachers since the "Great Recession"
  4. Increased retirements of the "baby-boomer" generation
  5. Enrollment growth
  6. A smaller number of individuals completing teacher preparation programs relative to past.

Based on an analysis completed by OSPI in January 2016, the estimated shortfall in needed teachers is expected to be approximately 3,500 teachers annually if current trends continue.

2016 Recent Legislation
The 2016 Legislature passed legislation intended to address the issue of teacher shortage. SB 6455 provides one-time funding for a recruitment campaign, a recruitment website, and additional grants and scholarships for new teachers. A statewide depository for teacher employment applications is created; more funding also was provided for increasing the availability of mentors for beginning teachers in order to increase retention. In addition, a change in law now allows retired teaches to serve as substitute teachers for a portion of the school year without losing their retirement benefits. These initiatives are currently being implemented and their level of success in reducing the shortage will be evident in the fall of 2017 and beyond.

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   Updated 4/3/2017

Old Capitol Building, PO Box 47200, 600 Washington St. S.E., Olympia, WA  98504-7200  360-725-6000  TTY 360-664-3631
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