Education / Schools

San Benito High School District approves raise in substitute teacher pay

Competitive job market and increased demand for their services have reduced substitutes’ availability.

The San Benito High School District Board of Trustees on Sept. 28 voted unanimously to adopt a $225 per day pay rate and just over $313 per day after 21 days for certified substitute teachers. Superintendent Shawn Tennenbaum told the board that due to COVID-19 there is a significant shortage of substitutes and that it was important to provide pay rates that are competitive with surrounding school districts.

In recent years the substitute teacher pool has dwindled in California, according to the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, the agency that licenses full-time and substitute teachers. 

In the 2018-19 school year, the agency issued about 64,000 substitute teaching permits. Two years later, the number decreased by 17,000.

“As you’ve probably seen in national and statewide news, tonight’s [agenda] item is in response to substitute crises,” Tennenbaum said. “It’s a one-year only increase from $160 a day to $225 a day. Our competition is our local area as well as Gilroy Unified and all the way down to Salinas. We’re seeing a wide variety of districts bringing this before their boards.”

With the pool of substitute teachers, SBHSD can only attempt to remain competitive with surrounding districts.

“While we don’t know individuals’ reasons for not wanting to sub, our pay rate is competitive with all other districts and we offer the flexibility to work the days and times that substitutes are needed,” the district said in a statement through public information officer Adam Breen.

The reason there is a crisis, according to the American Association of School Administrators (AASA), is basic economics—increased demand coupled with a decrease in supply.

“The decline in quantity and quality of substitute teachers is largely a result of today’s competitive job market where there are many alternative employment opportunities for potential substitutes. Plus, the growing trend of smaller size classes has reduced the number of certified teachers in the substitute pool,” AASA states.

After surveying 1,200 school and district leaders across the country, Frontline Education states that 71% of districts with shortages found it challenging to find special education teachers. And, as in previous years, the substitute shortage is becoming the most common shortage with 67% of the respondents reporting a substitute shortage this year. The top substitute teacher shortages, according to the survey, were in secondary math, paraprofessionals, secondary physical sciences and bilingual education.

The SBHS District’s salary schedule for substitute teachers working from 8:30 a.m.- 3:15 p.m. is $225 per day. After 21 consecutive days in the classroom, it will increase to $313.13 per day, retroactive to the first day. Any certified substitute teacher who reports to an assignment that is later cancelled and for whom no other assignment is available, will be compensated at a half-day rate.

AASA describes various strategies school districts are using to cope with the growing crisis.

  • Reduce requirements: Many states and districts have lowered their substitute teacher certification requirements and now only require a 4-year or 2-year degree, often not limited to the field of education. Some states, out of desperation, only require a high school diploma.
  • Pay increases: Some districts increase pay by as much as 50%-75% to compete with other local districts.
  • Reduce demand: Some schools ask permanent teachers to fill in in other classrooms during their preparation period to reduce the need for substitutes. Other districts pay teachers for unused sick and personal leave.
  • Aggressive recruiting: Districts use targeted advertising coupled with job fairs co-sponsored by colleges and universities, parent-teacher organizations and educational services centers.
  • Temporary staffing services: Temporary agencies contract with districts to cover classes when the demand for substitute teachers becomes too great.
  • Bonuses: Incentives of $5-$15 a day are offered to those substitute teachers who teach 85% or more of the semester.
  • Professional development restrictions: Some districts prohibit the scheduling of in-service programs on Fridays or during the month of December, the most challenging times to find classroom coverage.

Cindi Krokower, SBHSD’s director of human resources told BenitoLink that substitutes are “at-will” employees and are not represented by any bargaining unit.

“Therefore, substitute pay rates are not negotiated,” she said. “The district strives to remain competitive with surrounding districts as school districts statewide are responding to a depleted substitute pool by raising substitute pay rates.”

Substitute teachers accept jobs based on their personal availability, according to Krokower.

“The number of substitutes available on a given day is unpredictable,” she said. “Substitute teachers hold an Emergency 30-day Substitute Teaching Permit issued by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing, which authorizes them to remain in a specific classroom for up to 30 days. School districts rely on substitute teachers to cover teacher absence due to illness, injury, personal necessity, bereavement, or other school business.”

The substitute pay rates are posted on the SBHSD’s website.



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John Chadwell

John Chadwell is a BenitoLink reporter and an author. He has many years' experience as a freelance photojournalist, copywriter, ghostwriter, scriptwriter, and novelist. He is a former U.S. Navy Combat Photojournalist and is an award-winning writer who has worked for magazine, newspapers, radio and television. He has a BA in Journalism and Mass Communications from Chapman University and underwent graduate studies at USC Cinema School. John has worked as a script doctor and his own script, God's Club, was released as a motion picture in 2016. He has also written eight novels, ranging from science fiction to true crime, which are sold on Amazon. To contact John Chadwell, send an email to: [email protected]