According to Carolyn Bucior, who is writing a memoir about substitute teaching, 5.2 percent of teachers nationwide are absent on any given day, a rate three times as high as that of other professionals and one and a half times higher than teachers in Britain. Regular full-time teachers receive 10 sick days per year, by collective bargaining agreement.
By the time a student completes 12th grade he has had substitute teachers for almost one year of his 13 years of schooling. According to a 2008 Harvard study, schools in poorer areas have higher incidences of teacher absenteeism. The study concludes that absences can have a deleterious effect on student achievement scores, especially in math.
Congress has a bill, on the docket, the Substitute Teaching and Improvement Act (HR 2011), to deal with this perennial problem. It was re-introduced in April 2009 and will authorize the Secretary of Education to issue grants to local educational agencies to train substitutes, train principals and permanent teachers in effectively integrating substitutes into regular classroom operations, and collect data.
Why is teacher absenteeism so high and what are the data here in Santa Clara County by district? There is no doubt teaching is a very difficult profession that takes an enormous amount of energy, time, and planning to do well. Teachers are mostly female and are often the ones who stay home with their own sick children. Also teachers are exposed to a multitude of illnesses from their students.
Yet, teachers working in schools with a productive school culture are more likely to come to work each day prepared to teach, even though they may not feel 100 percent. I think we should tabulate the information on teacher absenteeism for all of the county’s 32 districts. Perhaps that can be something SJ2020 attempts to accomplish. These data may lead us to innovative solutions.
I would like to begin a new campaign to increase the public relations on behalf of all teachers throughout Santa Clara County. Several decades ago we had reverential respect for our teachers. No doubt, it is a very critical profession to the health of the republic. As one wise person said, “teachers are the brain surgeons for our children.”
One of the reasons I became a teacher was my dad’s high level of regard for those who taught. This feeling of value should still be the predominant attitude today, but things in America have changed. One way to increase the respect for what teachers do each day is for us to walk in their shoes. You can do so by becoming a Santa Clara County substitute teacher. The minimum requirements (sccoe.org) to become a substitute teacher are:
A Bachelor’s Degree in any major; Passage of the California Basic Educational Skills Test (CBEST); Clearance for your fingerprints with the Department of Justice for school employment.
The rate of pay varies from district to district. San Jose Unified pays $125 per day. Most SCC districts are in the same ballpark with compensation for substitutes, unfortunately all districts are forced to pay a paltry amount. If you put in seven hours on your assignment for the day at $125 per day your hourly rate of pay is under $18. If you subbed all 180 days of a school year, never for a long-term assignment (long term assignments pay goes up 10-20 percent), your annualized pay would be $22,500. Not a rate of pay that begs for respect. But the work sure does.