The Riverside Elementary School District 96 Board of Education appears poised to increase the pay for long-term substitute teachers in the district.

At the Nov. 17 school board meeting, Co-Interim Superintendent Griff Powell recommended that long-term substitute teachers be paid $150 a day. Presently, the most money a substitute teacher in District 96 can earn is $105 a day after 15 days on an assignment.

Long-term substitute teachers fill in for teachers on long term leaves, such as maternity leaves or medical leaves. A maternity leave generally lasts 12 weeks. A substitute in District 96 would be classified as long term if they have a specific assignment that lasts more than three weeks. 

Powell told the school board that long-term subs have far greater responsibilities than a regular substitute teacher, who just fills in for a day or two at a time.

A long-term substitute teacher must prepare lesson plans, grade student work, interact with parents, attend meetings for special education students, and basically do all the work of a regular teacher.

“You have all the responsibilities of a regular teacher,” Powell said. “To pay someone five more dollars for all those additional responsibilities is wrong.”  

Powell surveyed what other area districts pay long-term substitutes and came up with $150 a day as a compromise. He said some districts pay long term subs a daily rate that is equivalent to the pay of first-year teacher, which in District 96 would be $236 a day.

For example, said Powell, Western Springs pays its long-term subs $149 per day.

“I thought that was a nice compromise,” Powell said. “It’s significantly more money than, obviously, $105, but at the same time doesn’t jump all the way to the bachelor’s degree first step, which would be $236.”

Komarek School in North Riverside pays long-term substitute teachers $205.71 a day, while Brookfield-LaGrange District 102 pays long term subs $232.66 a day. 

Brookfield-LaGrange Park District 95 doesn’t have a separate pay rate for long-term subs. It pays all of its substitute teachers $110 a day.

Powell said that at one point during the fall District 96 had seven substitutes working long-term assignments and as of Nov. 30, it will have four on long term assignments.

He said that getting well-qualified, long-term substitute teachers is difficult, and he wants District 96’s pay for substitutes to be competitive with other districts. Powell described the district’s struggle to get enough substitutes as, at times, a crisis situation.

“We’re having a difficult time with substitutes,” Powell said.

District 96 has a substitute pool of about 30 people, about half of whom have a teaching license. The state of Illinois merely requires a substitute teacher to have a bachelor’s degree. Powell said District 96 administrators want anyone they use as a long-term sub to have a teaching degree.

Many substitute teachers work for more than one school district and are not always available when a school calls them to come in and fill in on short notice. Regular subs are often offered an assignment early in the morning of the day they are needed. Substitute teachers, who receive no benefits and are paid a daily rate, are free to turn down any assignment. 

“Half of them when you call them they’re not available on a daily basis,” Powell said.

The improving job market economy has made getting substitutes more difficult.

“In 2008 when we had the recession, you could get subs left and right,” Powell said. “But now with people back at work it’s really a struggle to get good subs.”

Komarek School is also advertising for substitute teachers and is trying to increase the number of people it uses substitutes. Right now, the district has fewer than 10 subs.

“We’re still trying to kind of build up the pool,” said District 94 Superintendent Brian Ganan. “We still have some times when we need subs and we can’t find one, or our subs are working somewhere else.”

At Komarek a regular substitute teacher is paid $125 a day. In District 96 a substitute is paid $95 a day. The pay rate in District 96 increases to $100 after 10 days and to $105 after 15 days. In District 102, the regular sub pay is $100 a day. 

The District 96 school board is expected to vote on the proposal to increase the pay of long-term substitutes at its Dec. 15 board meeting.