Retired teachers urge school districts to increase pay for substitute teachers

Lake County schools are in the midst of a crisis due to the lack of qualified substitute teachers.

This problem is not unique to us, but because our county population is low, and the percent of people with BAs is low, the pool of possible candidates is very shallow. Whereas the Lake County Office of Education, or LCOE, once had a sub list of over 130 people, it now has only 90.

At a recent meeting of the California Retired Teachers Association, Lake County Division #35, this issue was discussed in some detail.

Our feeling is that it is essential that the rate of pay for substitutes be increased. The current rate across the county varies, but averages $150 per day, with the recent exception Kelseyville, which now pays $170. The range is $125 to $160, with increases for long term assignments. Nearby Potter Valley pays retired teachers $243 for a full day.

Years ago, the rate of pay of substitutes was double the minimum wage. But the minimum wage has been increasing over the years while the rate of pay for subs has stayed flat.

How to pay for something is always a question for districts. Our belief is that if something is a priority, it will get funded. The new federal government dollars which have been given for COVID related relief, could be a source of funding. Districts could stipulate that the increase in substitute pay is on an emergency basis which warrants the use of federal COVID funds and will end when the federal monies run out in three years.

This much is fact: the current practices of splitting up a class to farm out kids to other teachers, having other school site personnel (who have jobs of their own) take the class for a day, having the class supervised by an aide, or having teachers give up their prep are all not educationally sound practices. Instead of solving the problem, they are just spreading around the misery.

In these scenarios, students are not learning, they are just being “housed” for the day. They deserve to have a qualified substitute teaching them when their teacher is absent.

One big issue for retired teachers returning to sub is that there is such a change in the reliance on technology in the classroom. This is true for anyone who wants to sub. Brock Falkenberg, superintendent of schools, has said the LCOE could put on workshops to train subs to use classroom technology.

So with a nice big raise and a hands-on training, perhaps we can make a positive impact on the number of highly qualified substitutes available for our students. They certainly deserve our best efforts on their behalf. Let’s not let them down.

Joyce Anderson is president and Judy Fletcher is president-elect of California Retired Teachers Association, Lake County Division No. 35.