DOE plan benefits substitutes
Those who work more than 90 days a year would get pay hikes and health coverage
For the first time, Hawaii substitute teachers would be offered medical coverage if they work more than 90 days a year and would see annual pay increases under a new Department of Education policy for substitutes.
The policy also spells out new training requirements and allows teachers to decline the medical coverage in favor of a $700 year-end cash bonus.
Public school substitutes have long complained about what they saw as unequal treatment despite the state's heavy reliance on them. Some are suing the state for years of alleged underpayment.
But yesterday, some substitutes welcomed the policy change.
"We're very pleased. Things are really going in the right direction now," said Genny Chang, a 27-year veteran of substitute teaching.
The new measures, which must go to the Board of Education for approval, were among the recommendations to come out of a task force formed to help implement substitute teacher pay raises mandated by the Legislature earlier this year.
The Legislature set a three-tiered pay scale that raised sub salaries nearly 25 percent for "highly qualified" teachers to $140 a day. Those with a bachelor's degree got a 15 percent raise to $130, while those without one received a 6 percent raise to $119.80.
The department's offer of a $700 bonus in lieu of medical coverage is intended for teachers who already have coverage or for those who want the money to purchase a plan other than the department's.
Either way, education officials hope the offers will entice more of its 4,600-plus substitutes to work more often.
Though typically more than 90 percent of teacher absences are covered by a substitute, failure to find an available sub often leaves schools in a bind.
Statewide, there were a total of 187,899 absences requiring a substitute in the 2004-05 school year, yet more than 1,000 subs do not work even one day a year, according to the department.
"We want to develop the core of substitutes that we have and, at the same time, encourage them to teach on a more extended basis," said Gerry Okamoto, assistant superintendent for human resources.
To develop existing teachers, the DOE policy would require all substitutes in the lower two tiers of the pay scale to take a 30-hour substitute teaching refresher course every five years at a cost of $50. Top-tier teachers would need to take it every 10 years.
Although generally supportive of the new policy, Chang, who was a member of the task force, said experienced teachers should be exempt from the refresher course. She also said the $700 bonus is inadequate to purchase quality medical coverage.
The task force recommended that substitutes' pay be increased annually, but left open the method for determining the rate of increase.
Chang said substitutes plan to be at the Legislature in the coming session to make sure an acceptable method is chosen.
"We're very concerned about incremental growth. Everybody else gets that but for many years we didn't," she said.