Running the Numbers on Portland’s Substitute Teacher Shortage

The problem is poised to persist in the 2022–2023 school year.

By Julia Silverman August 26, 2022 Published in the September 2022 issue of Portland Monthly


The school year is about to begin, but the substitute teacher shortage is ongoing.

When a handful of Portland Public Schools—most of them serving a preponderance of high-needs students from low-income communities—temporarily closed their buildings at the height of the omicron surge in January 2022, it was not just because there weren’t enough substitute teachers to go around.

But it sure didn’t help.

In the pandemic-pockmarked 2021–2022 school year, the dearth of substitute teachers was a persistent issue statewide, even after the state waived the usual requirement that subs have a college degree and a teaching license.  

It’s an issue that’s likely to persist into the 2022–2023 school year and beyond (even with the waiver extended), particularly in a wide-open job market where there’s lots of competition for workers, setting the table for another year of plenty of demand for a scarce substitute pool. Here’s a look at the issue in Portland Public Schools, by the numbers. 

  • 914 Substitutes on the PPS roster at the start of the 2019–2020 school year
  • 605 Substitutes on the PPS roster at the start of the 2021–2022 school year
  • 34 Percentage drop in available subs in that two-year period
  • 583 Sub requests on Friday, May 13, 2022, the most of any day in the 2021–2022 school year (The five days when sub requests were the highest were all Fridays in either late April or May.)
  • 725 Number of people who applied to become emergency substitutes at PPS last year after the state waived the requirement that substitutes have a teaching license
  • 333 Number of those who were hired
  • $233.01 Pay rate for a full day for a substitute educator at PPS for 2022–2023