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Do Substitute Teachers Get Benefits? A Comprehensive Overview

February 20, 2024

Substitute Teachers Benefits

Did you know 90% of public schools had difficulty finding full-time teachers in the 2023–24 school year? 

School district administrators must constantly develop new approaches to help manage the national teacher shortage crisis. One common approach is hiring substitute teachers. They step in when schools cannot hire full-time teachers, allowing learners to receive consistent instruction. 

But, while this strategy has worked for some school districts, there’s a gap between many substitutes’ expectations and what district leaders provide in terms of benefits, causing friction between the two. 

Here, we look at the typical benefits for substitute teachers and the challenges in the benefits landscape and offer solutions for district executives to help navigate them. 

Typical Benefits for Substitute Teachers

The national teacher shortage is just one of many hurdles school districts face. Many are also facing a substitute teacher shortage because the demand for these educators is higher than the supply. To attract available subs to their districts, some leaders have begun offering various benefits, including:

  • Health insurance: Some school districts offer full-time or long-term subs health benefits to secure their services. 
  • Retirement plans: In some cases, long-term substitutes receive contributions from their school districts. 
  • Professional development opportunities: Roughly 11% of school districts offer professional development opportunities to enhance substitute teacher skills.

It’s worth noting that these benefits aren’t guaranteed; they depend on various factors, including location, school district policies, and employment status. 

Typically, full-time or long-term substitute teachers are more likely to receive these benefits than part-time teachers. In fact, in some cases, part-time teachers get no benefits at all. Review your school district’s policies to determine what your subs should get. 

Potential Benefits for Substitute Teachers

Some school districts go the extra mile and offer more than just the typical benefits. A few less common benefits include:

  • Paid time off (PTO): Substitute teachers are typically paid for hours worked, so many don’t get PTO. However, states like Maine are challenging the status quo. In the state, substitutes are eligible for one hour of PTO for every 40 hours worked
  • Tuition reimbursement: Some states, like Illinois, have passed tuition reimbursement bills to encourage more people to join the teaching profession. While this isn’t a direct benefit for substitute teachers, those willing to pursue a college education and earn their certification can benefit. 
  • Referral programs: Some school districts offer incentives or rewards to substitute teachers who refer new candidates when they’re successfully hired. Incentives can include bonuses and perks like professional development opportunities or gift cards. 

State-specific Professional Association Agreements (PAAs)

Professional association agreements (PAAs) are vital in working relationships between school districts and substitutes. They outline various aspects of substitute teacher employment, including: 

  • Compensation: They may detail substitute teachers’ compensation structures, including daily rates, per diems, and additional pay for special assignments or long-term contracts. 
  • Benefits: Some outline expected perks, like health insurance and professional development opportunities. 
  • Work conditions: They may detail substitute teachers’ expectations regarding work hours, daily responsibilities, and the general work environment. 
  • Job security: Some agreements outline procedures for renewing contracts with substitute teachers and securing long-term contracts. 

Typically, PAAs are agreed upon by substitute teacher representatives and school district administrators. Therefore, they differ from state to state and have varying focuses. 

For example, the Professional Association of Georgia Educators (PAGE) focuses on increasing compensation for substitute teachers to address the shortage. The body recommends an allotment of $400 per substitute teacher from the state instead of the current $150 to help cover the cost of these educators. Helping school districts cover the costs of substitute teachers can open doors for benefits. 

In California, the California Teachers Association is tirelessly fighting for healthcare benefits for part-time educators. One of its chapters, the Gavilan College Faculty Association, recently got healthcare benefits for its part-time faculty, highlighting a greater willingness for school administrators to negotiate. 

In Oregon, the Portland Association of Teachers successfully negotiated incentive pay for working in specific schools, paid sick leave, and broader health insurance coverage. 

Challenges in the Benefits Landscape for Substitute Teachers

Advocacy groups are fighting for better benefits packages for substitute teachers, but many schools cannot meet their demands. Unfortunately, this causes a substitute teacher shortage as they’re unwilling to stand in for full-time teachers. Here are some challenges district administrators face regarding benefits:

Eligibility Criteria

Unlike regular teachers, substitute teachers don’t automatically qualify for benefits. Most school districts require them to meet specific requirements, including:

  • Number of working hours or days: In many cases, a substitute teacher can only access health benefits if they qualify as a full-time employee. Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), a full-time employee works at least 30 hours per week. This requirement is a significant challenge, as many don’t meet this threshold.
  • Type of contract: A substitute teacher’s classification as a regular, temporary, or contract worker can determine their eligibility for benefits like health care and retirement contributions. In most school districts, only regular employees are eligible for benefits. Temporary and contract teachers often need to make these provisions on their own. 
  • Tenure: Long-term substitutes are more likely to qualify for benefits than short-term substitute teachers. This is problematic since most school districts only hire substitutes to stand in for regular teachers, usually for short periods, meaning many don’t qualify. 

However, it’s worth noting that eligibility varies across states and school districts. For example, substitute teachers can reach benefits eligibility status in Columbus City Schools, Ohio, after working for 60 consecutive days. On the other hand, in New York, substitutes are only eligible for their contractual per diem rate, not benefits.

The lack of benefits is a deterrent for many substitute teachers. Therefore, school districts often face substitute teacher shortages. 

Part-time Status Limitations

As mentioned earlier, part-time substitute teachers are, in many cases, considered ineligible for benefits. Educators must work at least 30 hours per week to qualify, which is challenging since schools often hire them for short periods just to stand in for absent teachers. This results in inconsistent work schedules, which further affect their eligibility. 

Part-time status limitations not only substitute teachers but also school districts as a whole, as educators are unwilling to get into substitute teaching. 

Variability Across Districts

Substitute teacher benefits vary across districts — some offer comprehensive benefits, others only a few, and others none at all. For example, the New York City Department of Education (NYC DOE) only offers teachers the contractual pay rate of $199.27 per workday without benefits. In contrast, the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) provides comprehensive benefits to its full-time substitute teachers, including paid holidays and full healthcare

Varying benefits can cause significant gaps in under-funded school districts, as substitute teachers are more likely to choose districts with comprehensive packages. 

What Districts Can (and Should) Do for Substitute Teachers

Substitute teacher shortages affect students in various ways, including disrupting their learning, hindering achievement, and limiting the opportunity to develop relationships with their educators. Therefore, you must find ways to attract and retain substitute teachers in your school district. 

One way is to improve your benefits package. Here’s how to navigate the benefits landscape for both short-term and long-term substitute teachers:

  • Regularly review your school district’s policies on substitute teacher benefits and ensure all your schools adhere to them. 
  • Be transparent with all potential substitute teachers to let them know what your benefits are and the requirements they must meet to qualify. 
  • Explore health insurance options and assess different providers’ packages to identify affordable ones. With the cost of healthcare skyrocketing, offering healthcare coverage for both short-term and long-term teachers can help you fill substitute positions. 
  • Facilitate professional development. If you’re working with a tight budget, consider affordable options like online courses to enhance teachers’ skills without breaking the bank. 
  • Collect feedback from substitute teachers in your district to understand their benefits preferences and use the insights when adjusting your benefits programs. 

Alternatively, you can choose Elevate K-12 to avoid the hassle of constantly reviewing and adjusting your substitute teacher benefit packages. Elevate K-12 provides certified LIVE synchronous teachers who can livestream lessons into your classrooms, limiting the impacts of teacher shortages. 

Further, you don’t have to worry about teacher benefit packages — we’ve got it covered. This means you not only get qualified instructors in your classrooms but also take the burden of benefits considerations off your shoulders. 

Redefine Educational Support With Elevate K-12

Substitute teachers often step in when school districts are facing high teacher shortages or absenteeism. But, it can be challenging to attract and retain them — especially if you don’t offer comprehensive benefits like healthcare and professional development. 

Elevate K-12 can offer some relief as an excellent alternative to hiring subs. We provide fully certified teachers, so districts don’t have to worry about the substitute benefits landscape. With us, you only need to focus on your regular employee benefits, as we’ll manage the teachers we provide on your behalf. 

Tired of constantly dealing with the challenges of substitute teacher benefits? Choose Elevate K-12 to work with certified teachers in your current or next school year.

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