GOP leader looks to relax substitute teacher pay

Long established pay requirements for laid-off teachers returning to the classroom as substitutes are facing a new review as lawmakers seek additional options for cutting costs and giving administrative flexibility.

SB 266 from state Sen. Bob Dutton, R-Rancho Cucamonga, would delete from the Education Code the existing statutory substitute pay requirements.

Under current law, any permanent certificated employee who has been laid off can be hired back as a substitute. But districts are required to pay them the same, as if they had not been laid off, if they substitute for at least 21 days in a 60-day period and for all days they work as a substitute during that 60-day period.

The requirement is expensive and one that more and more districts are looking at with concern given that once again, thousands of pink slips are expected to be issued this spring.

District administrators have often complained that the substitute pay requirements tend to undermine the savings that are generated by teacher layoffs and thus, requires more layoffs than would otherwise be needed.

A proposal to temporarily relieve districts from the substitute pay requirements was considered last summer but didn't make it into the legislative session.

Dutton's office said Tuesday that the senator believes that permanently deleting the requirement now makes sense given the large number of former permanent teachers that now face layoffs.

Getting support for the plan is likely to face considerable challenge, although a spokeswoman for the California Teachers Association said Tuesday their organization has yet to take a formal position on the bill.

But a closer look at some numbers provided by Riverside Unified shows how costly the program is.

At the beginning of the school year, Riverside had 37 permanent laid-off teachers that were eligible to substitute, although about a third elected not to take assignments.

So far, five of the 24 remaining have not exceeded the service requirements of 21 days in a 60 day period. Thus those five receive the regular substitute rate of $100 per day.

The other 19 teachers, however, have exceeded the service requirements and must be paid at the premium rate. For Riverside, the premium rate varies from a low of almost $262 per day to a high of $454 daily.

In the 2010-11 school year, the district has used one or more of the 24 laid off teachers a total of 863.5 substitute days at a cost of almost $250,000.

If Riverside was able to pay only the regular substitute rate, their costs would have been only $86,350.

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