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DECATUR, Ala. – As school districts across the state see fewer new teachers, the need for substitutes has risen. According to the Alabama Teacher Shortage Task Force, 8% of teachers leave the profession each year.

“They are looking for quality people, but in the end, you’ve got to fill these classrooms,” said Wendy Lang, Alabama Education Association’s District 5 Director.

Lang represents teachers at Decatur City Schools and several other nearby school districts. Lang has recently been to a few board meetings where teacher retirements continue to come in even with the start of school.

“You have retirements every year. But we have record retirements over the past two years,” said Lang.

AEA says the high-stress environment brought on by the pandemic is likely part of the recent surge in retirements, along with teachers leaving because of health concerns.

With more teachers leaving than coming in, districts like Decatur City Schools are now paying year-long substitutes $20 an hour. Many of the jobs do not require formal degrees. Lang commends DCS giving more incentive to what will likely be retired professionals interested in subbing.

“That’s extra income that they could use. So on top of what they are already paying, I think it does help. I don’t think it’s going to eliminate the entire crisis,” said Lang.

According to the Alabama Teacher Shortage Task Force, 30% of all classrooms are being taught by teachers who are teaching out of their respective fields with no degree in the subject they are teaching.

“I believe education is a calling. They’re going to do what’s right, “said Lang. “Substitutes are not vested in the system. There is no retirement. There’s no calling. It’s just a job.”

Teacher salaries are worth less than they were a decade ago after adjusting for inflation, according to the ATSTF. Teachers in Alabama are paid 72% of what college graduates in other professions earn in the state.

The Alabama Education Association has members on the ATSTF. Both groups are trying to work to improve conditions for teachers with state legislators.

News 19 has been told by education leaders that they wish elected officials would spend time in schools before failing to pass items that would help Alabama’s school systems.