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Thursday, April 02, 2015

Our nation struggles to get and keep substitute teachers—Kansas lags behind

Substitute teachers are needed nationwide, according to a recent article in Yahoo News. Other news sources have also reported on a need for subs. As it turns out I am already working as a substitute teacher when I’m not writing. So is this news good for me? Well the answer is maybe. It is nice to have a job that seems to be in demand. The drawback is that this is Kansas and education here today is running behind much of the country.
That is mostly because Governor Sam Brownback continues to cut our public education budget. Our local school system, USD 259, may need substitute teachers, but that doesn’t mean they have the budget to hire all the subs they want.
The good news is that I already work as a substitute so as long as I can hold this job I’m employed and earning money. The bad news is that there are already several draw backs to being a sub and they are not likely to get fixed anytime soon. For example, subs aren’t paid a salary; they are paid per day worked. That means there are days when the school just doesn’t need many subs. We don’t get paid for holidays. Worst of all we don’t get any pay for the three months of summer vacation. Unlike many other workers, who can collect unemployment when they are laid off, subs are not allowed to do that. That means finding summer jobs IF there are any available. Jobs have been hard to come by in Kansas, so the last few years I have gone without summer work and without income for the entire summer.
Unlike the regular teachers and para-professionals subs have no union. The worst part of that is that we have no one to defend us if a parent makes a complaint against us. That may change soon for regular teachers as Brownback is trying to pass new laws that strip all teachers of due process when there are complaints aimed at any teacher.
As with other school districts, Wichita Schools are concerned about keeping subs. Last year they had a meeting to see what they could do to help people stay on as substitutes. But the problem of money keeps coming back to haunt us. When I asked if they could do something about these summers off without pay they told me that is how it’s been and how it will be. Good ideas to make subbing easier will not do much good while education is underfunded. Right now the school districts in Kansas treat substitutes as a part-time supplemental-income job. If schools systems across the country want to hire and keep substitute teachers they will need to put more money into the sub system. They may have to treat substitute teaching as a regular job with regular job benefits.
Here in Kansas we can forget about improving the substitute teacher pool until we vote out our anti-education governor. With Brownback in office, improving education is a lost cause.

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