Strong Economy, Low Unemployment Causing Substitute Teaching Issues

BOURNE – A strong economy and low unemployment are creating a shortage of substitute teachers in many Massachusetts communities including on Cape Cod.

Officials say the low compensation offered by school districts and other available job opportunities are making it hard for schools to find substitutes.

In Bourne, the school committee recently raised the basic rate for subs to $90 per day – up from $75 – in response to this year’s minimum wage increase.

The state’s current minimum wage increased from $11 to $12 an hour at the beginning of the year.

“It’s not glamorous. It’s not huge. But it should make a splash regarding the minimum wage,” said Steven Lamarche, Bourne’s superintendent.

The school committee will again discuss a restructuring of the school district’s substitute program and pay rates next month.

“They are a very important, integral part of our daily function as a district,” Lamarche said.

In Bourne, the school district does not differentiate between substitutes with or without a degree.

“There are some individuals who don’t who are fantastic substitutes and we want to certainly support them,” Lamarche said.

The district attempts to quickly move substitutes who are more degree or professional oriented into other positions, including long-term subs.

“We typically have a half-dozen long-term substitute positions within our school system,” Lamarche said.

After ten consecutive days individuals are bumped up the Bachelors Step 1 substitute level, which pays about $250 per day.

A restructuring of the system will be needed as any increase in substitute teacher rates would impact the school district’s budget.

Lamarche said there could be a change to make substitutes work 15 or 20 consecutive days to reach the Bachelors Step 1 level.

“We are looking to have something in the middle of that between the $90 and the $250 to help offset some of the increases,” he said. “But we really do want to show respect and honor those who come in to substitute teach.”

Lamarche said the school district is trying to balance its needs while staying competitive.

“We really appreciate the fact that the economy is doing well and that unemployment is at an all-time low, but we have to try to figure out a way to make things work for our system,” he said.

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