Schools Step Up Incentives to Attract Substitutes
(Lara Mossa, Nov. 19, 2018)
Hazel Park, Ferndale, MI- With an improving economy, school districts in the area and throughout the country are struggling to find substitute teachers. At least two local school systems have increased wages to attract candidates to the job.
“All of our districts have experienced a labor shortage for substitute teachers, and it’s been going on for at least six years,” said Dandridge Floyd, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources for Oakland Schools.
There is a correlation between high unemployment and finding substitutes, she said. As the economy improves, people are finding other permanent jobs. Oakland Schools works with 28 local school systems and all are experiencing shortages, she said.
Pay for a substitute teacher throughout the county varies from $90 to $110 a day. Long-term subs may be paid more as well as individuals who have a teaching certificate.
The state of Michigan has made two changes to try to attract more candidates. The amount of credit hours it takes to qualify as a substitute teacher has changed from 90 to 60. In addition, the state has deemed the reduction of substitute teachers as a critical shortage, which allows school retirees to return at higher rates of pay.
“We’re getting some increases certainly, but it’s not anything that we need on a day-to-day basis,” said Floyd.
Hazel Park Schools hiked the substitute pay rate from $95 to $120 a day this fall.
“There’s a crisis all over the state and really all over the country for substitutes,” said Amy Kruppe, Superintendent of Hazel Park Schools.
The problem started at least four years ago when she was an educator in Illinois, she said
“We raised our pay with the hopes that more substitutes will come in and work with our children. As the economy improves and there are other jobs you can get, there are less people willing to come in and do that.”
The hardest areas to find substitute teachers are math, science, special education and foreign language. Also, school districts with a high poverty rate struggle because the pay tends to be less, Floyd said.
When districts cannot find substitutes, they often merge classes together, ask teachers to cover a class during their prep hour or have an administrator handle job.
The problem was exacerbated this fall when one of the companies that helps school districts find substitutes folded. Most substitutes are not hired directly but employed through a third party. Professional Educational Services Group closed this fall, leaving districts to scramble to fill the jobs.
Ferndale Schools also increased the sub pay from $85 to $90 a day in January. In addition, the amount of time to earn a long-term sub rate, which is $120 a day, was shortened from 15 to 10 days.
“We typically fill 90 to 100 percent on a regular basis,” said Teresa Vulcano, Director of Human Resources for Ferndale Schools. “It’s not a big problem for us right now with the exception of long-term assignments.”
For Ferndale, it’s hardest to find substitutes at the last minute or for long-term assignments. In addition, it’s difficult to find math or science instructors at the secondary level, she said, because the district prefers certified teachers.
In order to substitute, candidates must have 60 college credit hours and a $45 annual sub permit or a teaching certificate. Applicants can apply through EDUStaff, a Grand Rapids-based educational staff provider, or Kelly Services, the Troy-based staffing company. Hazel Park Schools is temporarily hiring substitutes through the district. To apply, contact Shirley Atcho, Human Resources Manager for Hazel Park Schools at email@example.com.
“Our children are our future and we need to figure out how to be 100 percent supportive of our schools,” Kruppe said. “There’s nothing more important than our children.”
Hazel Park Schools