Monday, May 26, 2014

Sub Pay

As I said in a previous post, I am giving up trying to find a permanent full time job in teaching.  I am too old and it is difficult for me to keep up with the physical demands of the job.  I am also too expensive - too many degrees, too much experience.  But I am also pretty discouraged about subbing.  Sometimes it is the behavior of the kids, sometimes it is the behavior of the adults, and sometimes it is just the fact that, with subbing, you get to see very little of your influence.  You feel like a placeholder and not someone who is important.  There is another reason why I tend to not feel important: sub pay.  It is actually insulting.

I have subbed in three different school districts near where I live.  They pay around $95 per day.  I was working part time at a school a couple of years ago on a 7 hour a week job. The problem was that the 7 hours had to be divided between two days, because that is the way the students' schedules worked out. When I told the principal that I couldn't do that job any more and that I was going back to subbing, she gushed to me, "Oh, and subs get $100 per day!!!" I pointed out to her that $100 * (max) 160 days == $16,000. She was flabbergasted. She had never thought of it that way.  After 30 days for one of the school districts I work for, I get a pay raise to $114 per day. Hm... $114 * (max) 160 == $18,240.  Do you think you could live on that here?  It isn't even close to the poverty level.

I was talking about this with a couple of people I know in Australia.  There, substitute or "supply teacher" pay is actually very near to the hourly rate for regular teachers.  Given the median salary for teachers in Denver $52,881, (, for a 180 day contract, that would mean a daily salary of about $294.  $294 * 160 == $47,000.  Livable.  One woman even mentioned that temporary workers, like substitute teachers, often get a bit MORE than the regular employees, to compensate for the fact that their work is temporary and not assured.  

The reasoning in the United States is that substitute teachers could get another job during non-school times.  But in my experience, that argument has fallen completely flat.  Companies don't want to hire me, because I am overqualified for nearly every part time job that is available.  They don't want to go through the training and then have me leave for something better.  Physically, I can't work in the fast food or restaurant businesses and no one else has a job for someone with two masters' degrees, but little experience in their specific business.  

I am lucky, I have a husband who makes enough money to support us.  What I do is almost equivalent to doing volunteer work.  Maybe, I should leave the job to young graduates who are still hopeful of finding permanent positions and retired teachers, who at least have a pension.  

But it is sad for me.  I find the job - even with all of its challenges - interesting.  I like to see what is REALLY going on in the schools, compared to the rhetoric of what people think is going on.  I like to compare classes, classrooms, teachers, schools, school personnel, and school districts.  I am fascinated by differences in curricula, class atmosphere, school atmosphere, and above all differences in the children.  I am not a teacher who gushes that she just LOVES children.  But I do find them fascinating.  Endlessly fascinating.  For that reason, I am not quite ready to stop subbing, but I must admit, I am discouraged.  Maybe summer vacation will bring things back in focus for me again. 


  1. Thanks for sharing your insights, Laura! I had no idea that subs made so little money. It just goes to show us how our education system is run: they're only willing to pay babysitting rates, which discourages the real teachers, like you, from really engaging the students and motivating them. Ultimately, it shows how little we care about who are children spend time with. (I hope you hang in there - those kids are lucky to have you as their sub!)

  2. I would take $95. I have been making $85. for the last 5 years. Admin doesn't even think to give us a raise.
    I've yet to understand why an aide who doesn't need college for the position and has fewer responsibilities is paid more than a substitute

  3. It could become even more insulting soon, depending on what part of the country in which you reside. Since this year's State of the Union, there's been a big push in many regions to elevate the minimum wage to $10/hour or higher, something that in many places would turn substitutes like me into minimum wage workers, or less. Every district I'm at pays between $75 and $80 a day, so any hike there would really discourage me from continuing.

    Obviously, it's different systematically than it is in Australia, and I don't expect the system to even out anywhere near what it is there (this would be impossible and bankrupt every public school in the country). But even a smaller push would make the job at least a little more appealing and desirable, something that should seriously be considered where I'm at in Pennsylvania given our endless shortage of substitutes.

    1. In one respect, the Australian schools hiring supply teachers have it easier: they do not have to pay for health care, but their supply teachers still get health care. In the US, typically, no health care is offered with substitute teaching jobs.

  4. Dear laura,
    I read your posts and where you are is exactly where I am in being done applying for teaching jobs. I have applied for about 100 teaching jobs in the past 4 years and have had 4 interviews. I have my master's degree plus almost all my coursework done with my reading teacher license. I am done-I'm very sad about this too. I'm a requested sub, but that's it. My husband has a great job and I work part-time at my family business besides the subbing. Take care and thank you for voicing the crummy feeling I have had for so long.

  5. Laura, thank you so much for expressing your feelings. I've been subbing in Southern California for about 4 years total. I enjoy my job and have been lucky to get as many assignments that I've had. I also feel fortunate that we are paid $105 per day for K-6 and $140 per day for the middle school grades.
    There are a few teachers that seem to appreciate the work that subs do. However, I feel that most of the full-time staff take subs for granted. We will always be here if they need to take a personal day, have training, or are involved with school business. We will take the abuse their kids dish out because there is very little we as subs can do to them. Yet, we try to show that we care for the students and show just as much attention as the full time teachers do.
    What disturbs me is the lack of training we receive. When we are in the classroom, we have access to the same equipment the full time teachers use. There are computers, smart boards, ipads, etc. We also deal with the behaviors of those that have IEPs or miscellaneous learning disorders. Teachers have training periodically throughout the year. We get training maybe at the beginning of the school year, if we're lucky.
    And, as you mentioned, all full time staff, both certificated and classified, are represented in the teacher unions. I've checked for substitute positions on our state's union website but didn't see any in our local union. We work in the same environment but we're not good enough to be represented?
    Thanks also for sharing information about the Australian "Supply Teachers". It's good to know that some of us are getting the pay and benefits they deserve.

    1. When I subbed in Alaska, subs were offered the trainings that took place on teacher work days. I don't think many subs took advantage of them, but I felt several of them were really worthwhile.

      I have the same complaint about the use of technology. It would be nice to be trained on how even to hook it up. Most people think that the way it is done in their school is the only logical way, but I have found that it differs greatly from school to school, even in the same district. And, with so many teachers having you show movies to the kids, it is really important to be able to get the computer going.

      I would also like a requirement that teachers leave a card near the phone that tells how to use the phone to call the office, the nurse, and the custodian. I think regular staff would be surprised at how many different ways there are to do this in different schools.

  6. I guess I came at this from a different perspective. I am NOT a teacher. I have 15 years experience substituting in the same district. I see "teachers" work days I'd give my eye teeth to work, and then move on to a permanent post.... I don't understand why our multi-school district can't hire me and send me to whatever school needs me that day. Maybe then I could get healthcare? I'm willing to pay for some of it. In any case, I can NEVER be a teacher so I won't leave them, I work most days and am frequently requested...and I feel discouraged, too....

    1. One of the school districts I used to work for (prior to a move) had what they called "building subs". High schools often had 3 or 4 building subs. The building sub was hired to come in every day to a specific school and was given first choice of any substituting assignments that might be available for the day. If no subs were needed, the substitute would be given office work, photocopying, or asked to read with kids. The sub was therefore guaranteed work for every day, but the pay rate was the same as regular subs (which increased after 30 days, so the increase was assured). There were no benefits with the position, however.

      The advantages of this arrangement, besides just the assured salary, included getting to know the teachers and staff, the building, and above all the kids. Building subs were not just anonymous place-holders. Frequently, the position was also a stepping stone to a full time position.

      I was offered building sub positions, but I declined, because I cannot sub in PE and I prefer the older elementary students.