With students back on campus after 18 months of mostly learning from home, the Long Beach Unified School is facing a new challenge: a substitute teacher shortage.

Hoping to alleviate that, the LBUSD Board of Education approved a pay hike for substitute teachers, who are not represented by the Teachers Association of Long Beach or another union.

The hourly rate increased from $27.47 to $32, which means a full day of sub pay goes from $164.82 to $190.

“We’re increasing our daily rate to be more competitive,” LBUSD assistant superintendent David Zaid said during a presentation to the Board of Education last week.

The district has 1,300 substitute teachers in its system, but only 350 have been active since students returned, leaving unfilled vacancies when teachers have missed a day of school. Last Friday, there were 53 unfilled vacancies, which had to be filled by school or district administrators.

The shortage is happening across the state as well, and is worsened by an underlying teacher shortage. Several district officials interviewed recently by CalMatters said they started the school year with some classrooms being assigned a long-term substitute.

California has seen declining numbers of new substitute teachers every year, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the agency that licenses full-time and substitute teachers.

In the 2018-19 school year, the agency issued about 64,000 substitute teaching permits. In 2020-21, it issued close to 47,000, CalMatters reported.

Prospective substitute teachers need to hold a bachelor’s degree and meet the “basic skills requirement” either by providing a standardized test score or by having B’s or better in college-level reading, writing and mathematics courses.

Zaid’s proposal also included requiring subs to teach one day a semester to remain active with the LBUSD, as opposed to once a school year.

Between the higher pay and that requirement, the district is hoping that its subs who are registered in multiple districts will take more LBUSD jobs. With most surrounding districts adopting increases in pay during the pandemic, nearby districts like the Los Angeles Unified and Compton Unified were both offering higher pay than the LBUSD—with the increase, Long Beach moves back toward the top of local district sub pay.

The proposal passed unanimously.