The Sub Shortage is costing you money and is hurting YOUR kid!

We only get 180 days of instruction, and we need every one of them! For this reason, high quality subs are of great importance. With the ever increasing demands on our teachers and the school system as a whole, there are three major factors that play into why there is a sub shortage.
1.) There are some critics out there who want to point to numbers that show that teachers only teach for 180 days, yet they tend to be out of the classroom for 10% of those days. What those numbers don’t tell you is that because the state has cut the professional development days that used to be paid for, districts are instead opting to pull teachers from the classroom to give them professional development, so they don’t have to pay them extra money. Consequently, some teachers are not in the classroom for 10-20 days in a year, not by their choice, but rather because the district needs to pull them out in order to train them. In any given day in the Evergreen School district, 80 teachers being pulled from the classroom for professional development is not unusual.
2.) As the pressure and expectations continue to mount on our education professionals, health is diminishing. It is not unusual for teachers to e-mail the EEA office at 1:00am in the morning. Why that late? By the time a teacher does her job in the classroom, goes home to her family, gets the kids to bed, and does her 2nd job of grading and planning, it is 1:00am when she gets a chance to communicate to her union. When working these types of hours, it should not be surprising that health is failing, resulting in more sick leave usage.
3.) Subs make very little money! A day to day substitute in Evergreen Public Schools makes $132.07 per day, with a maximum opportunity to work 180 days. A yearly wage of $23,772.60 is not going to be satisfactory when the individual has student loan debt that was taken in order to earn a teaching degree that needs to be paid off. Consequently, unless an individual is in an economic place in his/her life where the money is not needed, they rarely stick around to do the job. They instead take their college degree and do something else. After all, if someone can manage 26 kindergarteners who are strangers to them when they walk in the door, they can supervise a few employees for a small business.

So here is a math story problem for everyone… If eighty teachers are pulled out of the classroom for professional development and several teachers are out ill with not enough substitute teachers to cover your first grade daughter’s class, what does the school do? The current answer, take away one of the two things your first grade daughter loves, their specialist time. Ask any elementary kid what their favorite things were for that day at school and (s)he will probably first say recess/lunch and then name what they did in Music, or read at the library, or did in PE class. However, since someone is needed in the classroom, the PE teacher will not be teaching PE that day, (s)he will now be teaching in a classroom for the day. The other option that is sometimes utilized, split a class up and put them in other classes for the day. Sometimes, students are sent to classes that aren’t even their own grade level.

This all has costs! When canceling specialist, students will not enjoy their school experience as much. Student burnout for the day, especially at the younger grades, will increase. There is already so very little room left in the elementary schedule for anything other than literacy and math, cutting out the little bit of physical activity a 1st grader gets or cutting out the creative outlet the music class provides is detrimental to the well being of our children.

Furthermore, there are actual financial costs. Right now, a sub costs $132.07 for the day, while buying the planning time of the nine teachers who can’t send their kids to the music class because the music teacher is subbing costs $185.40 for the day, never mind the fact that the teacher who was supposed to be teaching music is now getting a full teacher’s day of pay for subbing. As for the practice of sending your child to another classroom for the day, all this does is result in your child being warehoused in a classroom, thus missing out on instruction. While it might be fun for the fifth grader to spend the day in the first grade class, helping the students, that fifth grade student didn’t get his/her education for the day.

There is no easy answer for solving the sub crisis. Society has made the teaching profession less desirable, consequently there are not extra teachers to serve as substitutes. The EEA recommends three things to help mitigate this problem:
1. Pay substitute teachers a living wage so they can afford to do the job.
2. Lighten the workload on our teachers so they can keep their physical and mental health, thus needing less time out of the classroom.
3. Have less professional development during the school day. Offering more evening and weekend trainings and pay staff to attend might be preferential to many teachers.

The lack of substitutes is not just hurting teachers, it’s hurting your kids as well. We recommend that parents demand that the district aggressively work to mitigate the sub shortage problem.

WEA Locals Take Action

What does Seattle, Spokane, Prosser, Pasco, and Kelso all have in common? It’s not their demographics. It’s not their size. It’s not their geography. It’s the fact that all five of these school districts have WEA members who voted for, or is considering voting for, a strike this fall. There are also a couple other common denominators: 1.) They were all failed by their representatives in the legislature to appropriately fund educator salaries and to lower class sizes, as ordered by the Supreme Court. 2.) All these districts received significant funding from the state in other areas such as Materials and Supplies for which they were already paying and therefore they can now afford to more closely pay educators what they deserve.

In the case of Kelso, the district is receiving, from the state, $3.9 million more this year than last, which is an increase of about 12.7%. The district’s statement with respect to why they don’t see the need to appropriately raise salaries, even though the neighboring Longview School district teachers make between two and three thousand more dollars a year was:
“There are lots of factors that go into why teachers teach where they teach. … We don’t think our teachers are seeking to be the highest paid.”

Translation — if you want to be treated as a professional, you don’t get to be paid like one.
In Spokane, the district is receiving, from the state, $23.3 Million more [11.6% increase]. The WEA represents not only Spokane teachers, but also janitors, bus drivers, office workers, and others. Many of these people cannot make ends meet, but the district seems to have little interest in talking about the real money everyone in Spokane deserves.

Furthermore, guess who got an 11.2% pay increase this biennium? That’s right, our state legislators. So why would anyone be surprised when the Pasco Association of Educators demanded that they too receive an 11.2% pay increase? Legislators are quick to point out that they had no choice in getting their 11.2% raise, the law requires a citizen commission to set the salary. Where does this citizen commission get its logic and rationale? They get it by looking at the inflation rate over the years and the time it takes to do the job. The state has fallen about 12% behind inflation over the past six years with respect to teacher salary and any teacher can tell you that the time it takes to do the job has increased significantly over the past half a decade. So for what reason could anyone question Pasco’s demand for a pay increase on par with the state legislators?

If you think these disputes are only happening somewhere else, you need to know that these same problems are happening locally too. While there has not yet been talk of strike in Clark County, as of today the following educators in local school districts are working without a contract: Battle Ground, Ridgefield, Hockinson, and Washougal. I bring all this up for a couple of reasons: 1.) To educate people that there are educators throughout the state, and here in Clark County too, that need support; 2.) To remind everyone that it is not a coincidence that so many strikes are taking place, or are to take place, throughout our state. It is because the state has yet again failed in its paramount duty to fund education; and 3.) To let everyone know that the Evergreen Education Association will begin its bargain with the Evergreen School District this spring. It is my great hope that we will not have to go through these same great lengths to achieve an appropriate contract that values educators and the students they serve.

Education and the Sacrifice Bunt

To the casual watcher of the game of baseball, the most exciting thing to watch is the homerun. The homerun generates excitement, looks impressive, and accomplishes the goal of scoring a run, moving closer to the objective of winning the game. To those who are baseball fans, it is other intricacies that excite them, such as the act of the sacrifice. The sacrifice bunt is the act of purposely tapping the ball lightly, nearly guaranteeing the batter will be put out, so that another runner can get closer to home. This leads to the next batter simply needing to get a single, instead of a homerun to accomplish the goal of scoring a run.
Metaphorically, educators are known for the sacrifice. The premise being that if educators sacrifice, there will be more resources for the children. Without an educated populace, democratic society cannot succeed. Yet, instead of demanding the herculean salary for their important role in our society, educators often go without pay increases. In the state of Washington this has been true for the past seven years. Additionally, while watching healthcare costs soar, educators have sacrificed themselves (and their families) by shouldering more and more of the cost of healthcare.
The thing about the sacrifice bunt is, it only works if there is someone on base to advance. With the narrowing of the educational focus to SBAC tested subjects, no curriculum, failing technology, and 1/3 of the instruction being taken up by preparation for and administrative of standardized tests, kids are not getting a better education, they are not advancing, they are not even on base. Educators are starting to ask, for what am I sacrificing?
My colleagues in both Evergreen and across the state are starting to refuse to lay down sacrifice bunts when no one is on base. Sunset Elementary school, where they have sacrificed copious hours of their lives away from their families is spending a few weeks “working to contract,” refusing to put in more time than is required of them, showing how the extra work demanded is not significantly helping students. Furthermore, educators in several school districts throughout Washington State have voted to go on one day strikes to illustrate that they are done sacrificing their pay while watching their kids not get the attention they need because their classrooms are too crowded.
The question that remains in this baseball analogy is, if educators are the team at bat, who is the opposition in the field? It isn’t the principals who work tirelessly to better their schools. It isn’t the superintendent. It isn’t even the legislature. Like all educators, everyone wants to see all children get a quality education. Even the legislator, with whom I agree the least on education policy, has a great interest in his/her future geriatric doctor getting a high quality education right now. The team in the field, playing defense, is IGNORANCE. Everyone wants what is best for students, but don’t forget, it is our educators that know how to educate our children. Don’t cut out educators in the process of making our education system better, rather let’s all engage in creating a system that works well for children. Educators are not capable of suborning ignorance, and they certainly will not lay down a sacrifice bunt for it.

Facebook:  Evergreen Education Association
5516 NE 107 Avenue, Suite 100 – Vancouver, WA 98662
360-892-1740
http://www.eeaoffice.com