To the Editor:
School started this week and my friend Ray went to work. Ray is a smart, well-educated man. He is an under-employed victim of the recession and often works as a substitute teacher. I expect his teaching skills are pretty good because he has been doing it for some time. Ray is paid $75 per day, less than 20% as much as the average regular Hamden teacher.
Ray gets work almost every day if he is available. When he told me he was working the first day of school I was surprised. The teacher he replaced wasn’t sick, she took the day off because her own child was starting school; perhaps a noble, motherly idea, but it truly offends me. Her entire classroom suffered to benefit her child.
Hamden spends over $1 million per year on substitutes, paying only $75 per day plus an astounding $29 (39 percent) administrative fee paid to the Kelly Agency. That calculates to 10,000 teacher days, fully 10% of the entire teaching staff out every day. This taxpayer finds these numbers appalling.
Teachers get genuinely sick like anyone else but the teacher’s contract provides for time off for many other reasons. These include personal business, bereavement, child rearing / maternity, sabbatical and even to enter a study program.
If there ever was a system screaming for reform it is the substitute teacher system. My suggestions are as follows:
1. Encourage and demand high performing substitutes by paying them much more, perhaps $125-150 per day, and expecting them to contribute at a high level. Can we really afford to have 10 percent of the teaching time handled by glorified baby sitters?
2. Discourage teachers from taking so much time off by deducting the cost of their substitute from their pay. Even at a higher pay rate for substitutes this would still give the average teacher over 60% pay on days off.
3. Move the substitute administration back in-house. Hamden is foolish to pay more than $250,000 for the outside service.
Wake up the BOE! It is time for serious change.