The St. Cloud school district is temporarily raising rates for substitute teachers amid a "critical labor shortage impacting the school district and Teachers on Call, [the district's] partner in sourcing substitute teachers and paraeducators," said district spokesperson Tami DeLand.

For the rest of the year, daily substitute rates will increase from $140 to $160 per day, and permanent building substitutes or retirees will earn $200 per day, up from $150 per day.

The rates are up significantly from 2019, when the basic rate in St. Cloud was $105 per day or $125 per day if substitutes completed a training on diversity, technology and special education. In 2019, retired teachers earned $135 per day.

The coalition Education Minnesota estimates the statewide average for daily substitute teacher pay is $136.

The substitute shortage is hitting districts statewide. Findings from the Minnesota Professional Educator Licensing Standards Board show 88% of districts who responded to a survey said their district is significantly affected by the shortage and 89% believe the availability of substitutes is somewhat or significantly lower than five years ago.



Spruce grouse hunters submit feathers for genetics study

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is encouraging late-season spruce grouse hunters in the boreal forests of northern Minnesota to submit feather samples for a genetics research project the department is conducting along with the University of Minnesota.

The study, which is in its final year, is examining how climate change will affect spruce grouse, a climate-sensitive species that relies on boreal forest habitats. Those habitats contain black spruce, jack pine and tamarack trees, which are all expected to shift northward as temperatures increase.

The study will use grouse genetics to form a baseline of data about how spruce grouse use the landscape and how that changes over time. The fragmentation of habitat can cause a species to form smaller distinct genetic groups over time.

"Hunters who enjoy pursuing these birds are critical to the success of this project and our work to conserve this species," said Charlotte Roy, a grouse research scientist for the department. "Data collection for this project is simple, but we are currently falling short of our sampling goal this year. We're hoping hunters can help us by submitting another 100 to 125 feather samples in this final year of the two-year project."

Hunters who want to assist with the project during this grouse season, which lasts through Jan. 2, should collect three to five large wing or tail feathers along with GPS coordinates of the harvest location.

Mail the feathers, GPS coordinates and the hunter's name and telephone number to Grouse Research, DNR Regional Headquarters, 1201 East Highway 2, Grand Rapids, MN, 55744.

Hunters should mail samples from each bird in separate envelopes and not mix feather samples from multiple birds.

Surveys show that hunters harvest anywhere between 7,000 and 19,000 spruce grouse annually in Minnesota. Last year, 111 individual samples were submitted for the research project.