Some schools increase pay for high-quality subs

Tennessee's Knox County Public Schools offering incentives
By: | Issue: April, 2015
March 18, 2015

A northeastern Tennessee school district has more than doubled the daily salary of highly qualified substitute teachers to entice them to teach in low-income schools or those that are struggling academically.

A regular Knox County Public Schools sub is paid $68 per day, but an already certified teacher or district retiree can now earn up to $164.

“Some of those schools have struggled academically and have higher concentrations of students living in poverty,” making it more difficult to find a sub, McIntyre says. “We’re willing to pay more to have effective educating.”

In 2012, the district added on-site training and assessment requirements for substitute teachers in order to raise the quality and to keep learning consistent even when the teacher of record is absent. The move was spearheaded by the human resources department, which continues to monitor substitute training. The most important part of the training is classroom management.

While this increased the number of qualified substitutes, it decreased the number of eligible subs available, McIntyre says. After that, the district of 58,000 students and 90 schools had a tough time filling teacher absences in many schools.

But last November, administrators began offering an additional $25 per day to all subs in 33 schools that had a 15 percent or higher rate of unfilled teacher absences and greater concentrations of students in poverty. Substitutes in these schools also earn an additional $20 per day for working on a Monday or FridayÑthe two days that are most difficult to find substitute teachers.

And in February, the district added bonus pay for subs at any district school who are certified teachers without full-time jobs in Tennessee or former Knox County teachers who retired in good standing.

The new policy is estimated to cost a few hundred thousand dollars out of the district’s $420 million budget each year.

The average daily pay for a substitute teacher is $105, according to the National Substitute Teachers Alliance.

Since increasing pay, Knox County’s substitute pool has grown and teacher absence fill rates at the 33 designated schools have improved, McIntyre says. Sub positions on Mondays and Fridays are being filled 15 percent more than before, he adds.

Some other districts and states offer incentive pay to certified teachers or subs who have worked in the district for a certain period of time. But McIntyre says only Knox County offers bonuses for having a license or working in designated schools on Mondays and Fridays.

Nationally, many large districts, including Clark County School District in Nevada, Minneapolis Public Schools and San Francisco USD, are facing a substitute teacher shortage. This is often due to low pay, poor training and lack of benefits, according to the National Education Association.