Give students an apple

Posted: Sunday, February 12, 2006

S ubstitute teachers never could get a break. They're expected to prepare for the impossible on short notice, to be instant authoritarians with young, sometimes adolescent strangers, and, on bad days, to dodge spitwads and jeers. Beyond all that, they're expected to help students learn.

And in Juneau, it turns out, they're expected to do this for a pittance.

The Juneau School District says it is having trouble maintaining an adequate pool of substitutes. That pool numbers around 60 instructors, special educators and office workers. The daily need often is around 45 or 50, but the pool of 60 is too few when many aren't available on certain days of the week or will teach only at certain schools or grade levels.

As it is, Juneau's substitutes earn about $79 a day if they lack a teaching certificate and $100 if they're certified teachers. To address the shortage, the district proposes a new structure that pays slightly higher to begin and provides an incentive to stick with the program.

If approved by the Juneau School Board, the pay schedule would give substitutes with high school diplomas $80 a day for the first 10 days, and $95 a day thereafter. For those with four-year degrees, the rates are $95 and $115. Any substitute with a teaching certificate would get $105 to begin and $125 after 10 days.

Most people who work as substitutes are qualified for more predictable employment, often at higher rates. But many stay with it for the simple reason that they love teaching. In fact, the district cites the number of people using substitute positions as steppingstones to full-time teaching as one reason for the shortage. This should be seen as an advantage - a pool for cultivating long-term talent - and the district should pay enough to keep good substitutes involved.

The current proposal is a good start, and the School Board should approve it.

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