CARLSBAD — Struggling to acquire adequate substitute teachers, the Carlsbad Unified School District raised its pay rate for substitutes for the first time in 13 years at its July 24 board meeting.
“I became concerned about the challenge of finding sufficient certified substitutes on a daily basis,” said Rick Grove, Carlsbad’s assistant superintendent of personnel services.
He said that last year, nine percent of substitute teacher posts were unfilled in the school district.
“We had many days when we did not have sufficient substitutes to cover our positions.”
Grove said the struggle is attributed to the fact that Carlsbad offered the lowest pay rate for substitute teachers out of all of its neighboring districts, and one of the lowest in the county.
Last raised in 2000, substitute teachers received $85 per day for covering general education and special education classes and $95 per day for teaching a class longer than 10 days.
Comparatively, other nearby districts were offering from $90 to $105 per day for general education classes and more for special education and long term assignments.
Grove said that schools would be left scrambling in the morning when substitutes who had agreed to take a position would cancel the night before to take an assignment at a higher paying district.
He said that it was not unusual for principals, management and teachers on their prep periods to cover last minute vacancies. In some cases, teachers would have to be pulled from professional training activities to cover classes that did not have a substitute.
“Sometimes classified staff are left to cover, which is not OK,” he said.
Board President Elisa Williamson said that the district had not raised substitute teachers’ pay for so many years because Carlsbad’s schools are desirable to teach at for other reasons.
“Substitutes enjoy coming here. They feel safe and they feel appreciated,” she commented.
The board members of the Carlsbad Unified School District acknowledged that they had heard of the schools’ problems attaining enough substitute teachers.
Member Lisa Rodman said that she was aware of cases when classified employees and administrators had to step in to help supervise special education classes, which puts the district at a great liability risk.
Grove recommended that the district raise substitute teachers’ pay rate to $100 per day for general education assignments and $115 per day for special education and long term classes. The raise would put Carlsbad in the middle of the pay rates offered to substitutes by neighboring school districts.
Williamson said that she was concerned that if the board raised the pay rate for substitute teachers that other school districts would raise their pay as well to hold on to their competitive edge.
“If we getting into a bidding war, then we are going to lose that war,” she said.
The pay increase would result in an estimated extra cost of $95,000 per year for the school district, but Grove stated that that number is actually lower given the money that would be saved from having to pay teachers from giving up their prep periods to cover another class.
Troubled about the expense for the district, board member Veronica Williams said she would prefer rates to be increased to $95 for general education substitutes and $110 for special education and long term substitutes.
“An 18 percent jump (in pay rate) is huge,” she said.
Grove acknowledged that the raise would not be a sure fix for their substitute allocation issues.
“There is no guarantee that this is going to work. (But) we think this is the right place to be in the market,” he said.
Board member Kelli Moors argued that other employee groups have earned raises over the past 13 years while substitute teachers have not.
“Eighteen percent after so many years of neglect is not the same as saying we’re giving a huge increase to one group,” she said. “I think (substitutes are) worth way more than $100.”
The board eventually agreed that a raise was in order and that it was best to follow Grove’s research and recommendation.
The five members unanimously approved the substitute teacher pay raises at the levels Grove put forth and agreed to revisit other solutions if acquiring substitute teachers continued to be a problem, including considering loyalty raises.