A substitute teacher filling in for a Whiteland Community High School teacher on leave picks up all of that educator’s responsibilities but doesn’t receive all of the benefits.
Long-term substitutes are licensed teachers who plan lessons, grade assignments and have conferences with parents. But in many cases they aren’t under contract and don’t receive health insurance, life insurance, sick leave or retirement contributions that full-time teachers are given, Indiana State Teachers Association Uniserv director Judie Edwards said.
Under Indiana law, school districts can decide whether to offer long-term substitutes contracts that include benefits in certain situations, such as if the substitute is filling in for a teacher with a disability or one who is serving in the military.
Edinburgh Community School Corp. offers long-term substitutes benefits only if they are at a school for the entire year, and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson United School Corp. decides whether to offer benefits on a case-by-case basis.
BY THE NUMBERS
2010-2011 school year
35: The number of long-term teacher absences Clark-Pleasant had to fill
$40,000 to $50,000: The amount it would have cost to provide benefits such as health and life insurance and retirement contributions for the 35 long-term substitutes.
2011-2012 school year
19: Number of long-term absences Clark-Pleasant is expecting so far
Five: The number of substitutes who will receive benefits from the district this year. These substitutes will teach in the same classroom all school year.
Franklin Community School Corp. doesn’t offer benefits to long-term substitutes.
Clark-Pleasant has received 19 leave requests this year. Five substitutes have been hired to fill leaves that will last the entire school year, and Clark-Pleasant is providing those substitutes benefits, director of human resources Terry Thompson said.
“Since the temporary teacher was going to be there the entire year, we just felt it was the right thing to do,” he said.
But Edwards wants all of Clark-Pleasant’s long-term substitutes to receive the same benefits as regular teachers. A substitute with the district for several months should be able to take a paid day off if they get sick, she said.
“We think they are certified teachers and should be treated as professionals,” she said.
The Clark-Pleasant Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers, has asked the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board to hear the case.
The union filed a grievance about substitutes’ benefits with the district in September 2010. The school board conducted a hearing with the union in executive session and ultimately determined the law didn’t require the district to offer all substitutes benefits, Thompson said.
The union took the issue to the Indiana Education Employment Relations Board in October of this year, and the teachers and the district are awaiting the board’s decision. Decisions typically come 60 days after a hearing, but the decision for Clark-Pleasant could take longer because of the holidays, Indiana Education Employment Relations Board attorney Amy Matthews said.
If the board rules in favor of the union, other Indiana districts could face similar challenges from teachers unions to offer benefits for substitutes, Clark-Pleasant’s attorney, Chuck Rubright, said. And that could be an expensive prospect, as no clear definition exists that explains when a substitute becomes long term, he said.
“If this group goes in, the entire group goes in,” he said.
Most of Clark-Pleasant’s leave requests are for maternity leave, which doesn’t qualify as a physician-verified leave unless the pregnancy produced disabilities.
Clark-Pleasant had 35 leave requests last year, and if the district had offered benefits to all of those employees the cost would have been between $40,000 and $50,000, Thompson said.