With local school systems having fewer applicants for full-time teaching jobs and inflation driving up wages outside of education, districts have increased the pay for substitute teachers this academic year.
Cliff Booth, Morgan County Schools' human resources director, spoke to new substitute teachers at the central office Thursday about the district’s expectations in monitoring students and the assurance of a 12.5% increase in daily pay.
Substitutes with or without a degree in Morgan County schools will earn a flat rate of $90 a day, an increase from $80 a day last year. Booth said the school system is mainly responsible for substitute teacher salaries, and the 4% state raise granted to teachers and other faculty this spring did not apply to substitutes.
“Other people in Morgan County who weren’t teachers … like custodians and aides and people like that, they got a 4% raise just like certified people did and we felt like it was important that we give our substitute teachers a raise also,” Booth said. “We did this out of reaction to everyone else getting a raise, plus we wanted to interest more people.”
The state reimburses the system for a substitute to fill in for up to five days per year that a regular teacher is on sick leave, Booth said, but beyond that the school district gets no reimbursement.
Around 80 new substitute teachers were present at Booth’s meeting, which he said was a good number considering that on an average school day about 75 teachers in Morgan County Schools are absent.
Booth emphasizes that substitutes need to be attuned to classroom security.
“The main thing is for them to be mindful of what’s going on in their classroom,” Booth said. “They need to keep their door locked and to make sure to enter through the front of the building every morning.”
Rachael Smith, who will be subbing at Danville Elementary this year, said she was shocked when she saw the salary for substitute teachers this year.
“I didn’t know it was going to be that high,” Smith said. “I thought it was going to be like $50 and I was shocked it was $90. For that, I wouldn’t mind working every day.”
Smith said her sisters-in-law were teachers at Danville Elementary and she wanted to be able to assist them when needed. She said her patience with children and desire to work in the community are why she decided to apply to be a substitute teacher.
“I’ve always worked in church nurseries and when my kids were little, I always went up (to Danville Elementary) to volunteer with plays and stuff like that,” Smith said.
Booth said he hopes some who work as substitute teachers will be inspired to pursue an education degree and work in the classroom permanently. That’s exactly what new sub Kalynn Holcomb plans to do.
“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and I’ll be a junior this fall at Arizona State where I’m taking online classes,” Holcomb said. “I’m majoring in biological sciences and want to teach sciences on the high school level.”
Holcomb said she is going to be substituting at Falkville High School where her mother works as the school nurse. She said the school was not too far from her home near Cullman.
“This is a really great opportunity for aspiring teachers,” Holcomb said.
Other local school districts have also increased their pay for substitutes. Certified substitute teachers in Decatur schools — those with a teaching degree — will earn $90 a day this school year, up from $80 a day last year.
"Someone with a high school education can get a substitute license and those subs are considered non-certified," Booth said. "People who are certified can substitute without having to get that license because they have a teaching degree."
Hartselle schools increased pay for their certified substitute teachers from $65 daily to $110 this year. Non-certified subs will earn $90 a day, up from $50 last year.
Jordan Lybrand, human resources director for Hartselle schools, said the increase approved in January was an incentive to bring in more substitute teachers to the district’s classrooms to aid in teacher shortages.
Limestone County Schools increased its certified substitute teacher pay to $85 a day and non-certified subs will earn $75 a day. This is a $10 increase for both classifications.
In Lawrence County, certified substitutes earn $100 a day and non-certified earn $90 as of February. This is an increase from $75 at the beginning of last school year for certified substitutes and $65 for non-certified subs.
Superintendent Jon Bret Smith said there were several factors that influenced the raise such as teacher shortages and inflation, but they want the job position to sound appealing to would-be educators as well.
“We wanted to make sure we had the best people in our classrooms,” Smith said.