Archive for Sunday, July 30, 2000

Teachers: There’s just no substitute for good wages

July 30, 2000


Substitute teachers Clarice Broz and John Swift are from opposite ends of the education universe.

She's a retired teacher and he's a college student trying to break into teaching. But both were substitute teachers last year in the Lawrence public school district and agree on this: Salaries of subs are too low.

To be eligible for an emergency substitute teaching certificate in the Lawrence public school district, you must:Have a current teaching certificate from another state, orBe a recent graduate of a teacher education program, orHave completed 60 hours of college credit and have experience working with children or youths orBe a retired teacher.For more information, contact Sherri Brown with the Lawrence school district, 832-5008, extension 625.

"Compensation is not good. It's a situation that somehow needs to be remedied," Broz said.

Swift, who attends Washburn University in Topeka, said nobody gets into education expecting to get rich. But it would be nice, he said, if wages could be improved.

"Teaching has never been a very lucrative profession," he said.

Their sentiment is shared by substitutes throughout the nation. A group of subs met this month in Washington, D.C., in an effort to begin dialogue that might lead to formation of an association maybe a union like the two major organizations that represent 3.5 million full-time teachers.

Generally, substitutes would welcome better pay, health coverage, computer training, professional development and fair hearings when officials complain about their work.

In short, they want more respect.

Substitute shortage

Factor in a shortage of full-time teachers, mandates for smaller classes, enrollment growth and a booming economy, and the result is an insufficient pool of substitutes in the Lawrence district, said Mary Rodriguez, executive director of human resources.

A campaign started last year increased the Lawrence district's cadre of substitutes from 90 to nearly 200 by the end of the school year.

More substitutes were drawn to the ranks because they were allowed to pick their teaching days and schools.

Rodriguez said the district's recruitment effort this year included a modest salary increase. Pay for a full day will be $80, up $2 from a year ago. If a teacher works a substitute assignment for five days or more, pay increases to $108 daily.

"We're pretty competitive," Rodriguez said, "but we're always trying to get more money in where we can."

Nationally, the average pay for a substitute is $65 a day. Some urban districts pay more than $150, but some smaller districts pay just $30.

Substitute wages last year at area districts varied widely: Kansas City, Kan., $97 per day; Baldwin and DeSoto, $80; Tonganoxie, $70; and Topeka, $67.

Enjoyable retirement

The Lawrence district requires about 50 substitutes daily to fully staff the 850 certified teaching slots in the district, Rodriguez said.

Broz retired a year ago after two decades as a teacher in Lawrence schools, but she found she couldn't completely walk away.

"It's difficult, when you enjoy what you're doing, to just quit," she said. "I signed up to be a substitute, just in case I was missing the kids."

Indeed, Broz found herself in the classroom at least five days each month at Deerfield School. It was a nice fit, because she had spent the previous 13 years there. She was comfortable with her surroundings and acquainted with many students.

There were no horror stories of unruly students, teachers who didn't leave lesson plans or principals indifferent to classroom chaos.

"I did enjoy it very much," Broz said.

She enjoyed it so much that she decided to sign up this year to substitute at the district's newest elementary school, Langston Hughes School.

While some substitutes are seeking part-time or retirement work that allows reduced or flexible hours, many substitutes are trying to get their foot in the door of a full-time teaching job.

Swift managed to land a long-term substitute job during the spring at Pinckney School.

"I learned an awful lot," he said. "It was a very challenging and rewarding experience. It's hard work, if you take it seriously."

He plans to take a full class load this fall and won't work as a substitute. Looking back on his experience, he believes substitutes in Lawrence especially novice educators would benefit from more professional development. Student discipline is an area where young educators could use extra guidance, he said.

"They give us a little orientation at the beginning. It's useful but doesn't address everything that goes on in the classroom."

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