Saturday, October 24, 2015

Tales of a Substitute Teacher: The Economics of Substitute Teaching

a sample paycheck for a regular substitute teacher
If everything had gone according to plan, on Monday I would have started a two-month interim sub stint as a 9th grade English teacher at Monarch High School. The timing for this opportunity could not have been more perfect. But due to a miscommunication between teacher and administrator, I did not get the job, and it was officially offered to someone else. 

It is no secret that I have been contemplating a career in education for years and became a sub mostly to get the public education experience, observe it, and share my passion for learning. My other freelance work has enabled me to step into the classroom when desired, and this interim post would have given my the first taste of real consistent teaching and the ability to sustain my family while doing so.

The interim sub job pays good money. It pays 240% above what a normal substitute teacher earns. According to the Broward Schools "Substitute Teacher Handbook" which is available publicly on-line, the daily rate for an interim sub is $204.07. If the average school month has 20 instructional days, then that sub earns about $4,000 a month. That is a respectable income.

Average substitute teacher pay is a different story. A single person cannot make a living as a substitute teacher. At Broward Schools, substitute teachers make $11.27 per hour, approximately $80 for a full day's work, and $1,690 per month or what it costs to rent an average two-bedroom apartment in my town. This hourly amount  is $3.22 over the Florida minimum wage and $5.71 below Florida's living wage for a single adult. The gap between earnings and the living wage naturally widens as you add in children or a non-working spouse.

There are certain upgrades in the substitute teaching arena, but it still won't translate into a livable wage. A "pool sub", for example, shows up to one school everyday and earns $95.03 for the daily commitment or $1,900/month. If you have a bachelor's degree and choose to work in a special school reserved for students who are emotionally, behaviorally, or intellectually challenged, you can earn $116.17 per day or $2,323 per month.  I have never sought to work in one of these facilities but am going to try this out one day and report back.

The economics of SUBstitute teaching support the meaning of the prefix which is "below, beneath, under and less than".  They are also aligned with what so many middle school and high school students think and say when they see a substitute teacher in their classroom, that you are "just a sub"...a placeholder, babysitter, someone to make sure students don't cut class and hurt each other. But I am certain that even 12-year old babysitters make more money an hour.

My daughter is in 9th grade. She has had a sub in English class for the last 7 school days. She reported that the class was expected to do ten minutes of vocabulary and grammar exercises daily and that once that was done the substitute teacher said, "The rest of the time is yours." Her class talked quietly, went on their phones, and listened to music.  I calculate roughly 4 hours of instructional time lost. As a parent this irks me greatly. As a substitute, I understand that teaching "The Odyssey" can be daunting, but there certainly could have been other language artsy things to do.

I write this blog and share my experiences because I hope I can have some impact raising the standards of substitute teaching and thus the compensation for doing the job.

Up next: The Interim Sub Job, Part II

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