State shifts policy to allow longer term substitutes

State shifts policy to allow longer term substitutes

(Calif.) Although school administrators in many parts of the state continue to struggle with the ongoing teacher shortage, some relief is being offered with the relaxation of rules governing long-term substitutes.

As of this month, replacements will no longer be held to a maximum of 30 consecutive days when substituting for the same teacher in a general education classroom or 20 consecutive days for the same special education teacher.

Under new regulations approved by the Office of Administrative Law, school administrators will be able to assign a substitute to lead a classroom for the full duration of the teacher of record’s leave as long as the absence is one protected in statute.

The new regulations took effect on August 16.

Although the state does not collect data on the number of teachers that take long-term leave, recent reports from districts suggest that the numbers are significant and growing.

The option comes as the education community has seen a big drop-off in the number of new recruits entering the teaching profession and as scores of baby boomer veterans begin retiring.

Complicating the landscape are teachers that need to take long-term leaves, typically for health reasons. Under the prior rules, schools were forced to juggle substitute assignments for even the most routine absences.

A new mother, for instance, who takes the maximum four-month maternity leave allowed under state and federal law, required three different substitutes to be shuffled in to cover her class, according to the Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

A more complex problem, such as a work-related injury that can last 60 days, could require as many as eight different substitutes to cover, according to testimony before a legislative panel last fall.

The new regulations, detailed in a correspondence released this week by the CTC, provide for a substitute to serve for the entire length of a qualified leave taken by the teacher of record under certain conditions.

For one, substitutes must receive a new state permit that requires some training beyond what regular substitutes must have. Also, the type of leave taken by the teacher of record must be one already identified in state law as one that districts are required to approve.

Thus, differential sick leave gives the teacher of record five months leave under state law, the pregnancy disability leave provides four months, while family medical leave requires a teacher to be off at least 12 work weeks.

The new rules are the result of more than two years of study and debate. The CTC organized a stakeholders group in 2014 to take up the question, with representatives of both labor and management organizations, including the Association of California School Administrators, the California County Superintendents Educational Services Association, California Federation of Teachers, California School Boards Association and the California Teachers Association.

The commission also conducted a survey that drew almost 800 responses from a variety of county and local representatives. An overwhelming number, almost 83 percent, said they had experienced staffing issues related to statuary leave, according to a staff report. more