Responding to a shortage that has drained its pool of substitute teachers to 40% of the desired level, the Las Virgenes Unified School District has raised the pay for these temporary instructors.
The Board of Education approved the increase from $85 to $100 a day for assignments up to 10 days long in an effort to stay competitive with neighboring school districts, said Deborah Coleman, assistant superintendent of personnel.
Oak Park Unified, a Ventura County school district, recently increased its daily pay rate for substitutes, from $85 to $95, said Carolyn Knight, an administrative secretary in that district. Nearby Simi Valley offers substitutes $100 a day.
The Las Virgenes district has about 80 substitutes in its pool. “We would like to have about 200,” Coleman said. “It’s been dropping the past three years as class-size reduction has hit.”
In 1996, California enacted a plan to offer financial rewards to schools that reduced elementary classroom sizes. The initiative created a high demand for new primary grade teachers to handle the extra classes, which in turn thinned the ranks of substitutes.
Some districts have been harder hit than others by the substitute shortage. The Los Angeles Unified School District, a much larger system than Las Virgenes that keeps about 4,700 substitutes on hand, has weathered a high turnover of substitutes due to class-size reduction, said Bob Fisher, the LAUSD assistant of certificated personnel.
But these losses have been offset by a steady stream of applicants, Fisher said. With a daily pay rate of $133.89, the Los Angeles district pays substitutes much more than some neighboring suburban areas.
“Smaller districts do not need to have as many substitute teachers,” Fisher pointed out. “And that may exacerbate the problem for them, because they may recruit, but they can’t guarantee them that they will work every day.”