[Marxism] Bama Class War

Michael Hoover hooverm at scc-fl.edu
Fri Mar 3 07:25:02 MST 2006

February 25, 2006 

Some Alabama substitute teachers make close to minimum wage

Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Substitute teachers in Alabama make as little as $37 a day, a figure close to the federal minimum wage of $5.15 an hour for a seven-and-a-half hour work day.

The state's proposed budget in the Legislature would raise the state's base pay for substitutes to $40 a day. But even with local supplements, Alabama's pay for substitutes is far below the national average of about $70 a day and is near the lowest in the nation.

School superintendents say the low pay adds to the problem of finding people willing and able to take over a classroom.

"It's almost embarrassing what we pay substitutes," said Brian Johnson, superintendent of Cherokee County schools, where substitutes make $37 or $42 a day, depending on whether they have a college degree. "The bad part about $37 a day is that it's not even minimum wage and these are high quality people and we need to pay them more."

Johnson said Cherokee County has a good list of substitutes, but there are times when it's impossible to find someone to sit in for an absent teacher. When that happens, he said, other teachers cover the class during their off periods "or sometimes an assistant principal has to take the class."

"My wife is a teacher and she has called 10 to 12 people before she finally found a sub," Johnson said.

Superintendents said the low pay means that sometimes schools have to settle for substitutes who can do little more than baby-sit while the regular teacher is away.

But Janie Hodgson, who makes $50 a day as a substitute at several Montgomery schools, said she teaches the lessons provided by the regular teacher and would never settle for being a baby sitter.

"I'm going to continue to teach them what they've been learning," Hodgson said. "I don't like it when my own kids say that they had a substitute and that all they did was some worksheets and watched videos."

Hodgson, who has three children in Montgomery public schools, said most substitutes don't do it because they're hoping to make lots of money.

"I started subbing when my kids got to school age. I wanted to know what they were doing, who the people were around them and what influences they were being exposed to," Hodgson said. "I've stayed in it because I want to do what I can to make sure all kids have an opportunity for a great education."

Substitute teachers in Wilcox County, a poor, rural county, are paid the minimum wage, which Superintendent Malcolm Cain said comes to about $40 a day.

"Sometimes it's almost impossible to find subs," Cain said, adding that the problem is the worst at isolated rural schools, where classes sometimes have to be combined when substitutes are not available.

In Alabama, prospective substitutes must fill out an application and submit to a background check - a process that costs the applicant in most cases about $70. Macon County Superintendent Willie Thomas said those fees add to the difficulty of finding substitutes in his county, where they make $45 a day.

"A lot of people don't want to spend money before they get money," Thomas said.

According to the National Education Association, the average pay for substitutes nationally is about $70 a day.

Doug Provencio, a substitute teacher in Oakland, Calif., and the president of the NEA's Substitute Teachers Caucus, said he makes $111 a day in Oakland and that in some areas the pay is even higher, like Portland, Ore., where substitutes make about $150 a day. He said Alabama's pay - $35 from the state, plus any local supplement - is among the lowest in the nation, although some more well-to-do systems chip in with a bigger local supplement that raises the daily pay to $60 or higher.

Provencio said one consequence of paying near the minimum wage is that many substitutes end up being very young, some not long out of high school.

"They are going to have a hard time managing a classroom," Provencio said.

He said the pay for substitutes varies across the country and that some school systems have sliding scales depending on education level, experience and even what age students a substitute is willing to teach.

"Some school districts pay more to substitutes who are willing to work in middle schools," Provencio said. Some substitutes are reluctant to work in middle schools where they perceive discipline problems will be worse than in high schools or elementary schools, he said.

The problem of finding substitutes has gotten to be such a hassle that some school systems have turned the job over to companies that provide temporary workers for businesses.

In Pike County, south of Montgomery, the school system has contracted with Kelly Education Services to find substitutes, who are paid $50 a day. Rather than calling people on an approved list, teachers and principals call Kelly and the company finds the substitute.

Pike County Superintendent Mark Bazzell said the system started using Kelly partly because of the difficulty it was having finding substitutes, sometimes having to pull full-time teachers out of training sessions to fill in for absent instructors.

Bazzell said he hopes the Legislature increases the amount the state pays for substitutes. The budget bill would increase the state's payment from $35 to $40 a day.

"The state has never provided the cost of fully funding substitutes. Local systems have to pick up the cost," Bazzell said.

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