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The School District of Philadelphia on January 26, 2021. Credit: Gary Lin

The Philadelphia School District announced it will end its contract with its substitute teacher provider after experiencing a shortage of workers.

The School District will end its relationship with Kelly Educational Services, a network for substitutes and temporary workers in schools, at the end of the 2021-22 school year, according to the The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In mid-October, Kelly Education officials said the firm filled about 70% of substitute-teaching jobs nationwide, while the rate is typically between 80% and 90%. In the Philadelphia School District, the firm only filled 41% of substitute-teaching positions, according to the Inquirer. 

As an alternative to Kelly Education, the Philadelphia School District will consider a two-year, $58 million contract with Cherry Hill-based education staffing firm, ESS Northeast, according to the Inquirer. ESS offers substitute teaching opportunities along with training sessions, select health benefits, and flexible scheduling for its staff, among other employment perks.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Philadelphia School District has experienced vacancies of teachers, special-education assistants, and nurses, especially during the 2021-22 school year. At a November school board meeting, Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. noted that there were nearly 1,900 vacant positions in the district. 

In response to the struggle to fill vacancies in local schools, the School District of Philadelphia began offering daily bonuses and increased pay for substitute employees through April 2022. The bonuses range between $20 and $100 per day, depending on the fill in position, with some workers' wages increasing by between three and five dollars per hour.

“It’s almost impossible to operate buildings with that many vacancies, especially with absences on top of that,” Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, told the Inquirer.