Substitute teachers deserve way more

New Hampshire is not alone when it comes to the difficulty of finding substitute teachers. In Michigan, according to Education Week, a school staffing company is putting up billboards saying “Substitute Teachers Needed.” That’s one way to get the message out.

Other schools are hosting job fairs. And, of course, some districts – including Milford – have raised the pay.

Still, there is a shortage and the issue, like it or not, is money. If a district pays $75 per day to a substitute who spends seven hours in school, that’s just a bit more than $10 an hour. It’s more than minimum wage, but. …

Substitute teaching is not easy, not for those who take the job seriously. Certainly there are cases in which the sub has little of substance to do – classes where movies are shown or students use the period as a study hall. That’s mostly the case in high school.

In elementary schools, subs are often expected to follow a lesson plan, and while many plans are sketched out in detail and can be easy to follow, they’re no day at the beach. A classroom teacher leaving a sub such a plan expects work to be done and students to learn, and that responsibility falls upon the substitute.

For $75 a day.

We know that school districts are strapped for money, especially in a state like New Hampshire where the Legislature has been cutting back on school funding, and there is so much dependence on the property tax.

But something has to give. School districts have to get it from taxpayers. Either that, or cut programs which we think is a disaster. No music? No art? Why not cut football and save money on coaches’ stipends and transportation costs? Blasphemy! Better to whack the music program.

Districts have to find a way to pay a wage that will attract substitutes, a wage that will mean some competition for the jobs. How to do that is the question.

First, they have to launch a public information program aimed at taxpayers. Districts have to explain to the keepers of the cash – the voters – why substitutes are important, what will happen if districts have to find the cash by cutting programs and why the programs that would be cut, or reduced, are integral to a kid’s education.

Of course, even the best public information program can fall upon deaf ears, but aren’t we in a time of economic plenty? The Trump people keep telling us that. So? Shouldn’t taxpayers be able to afford more school spending?

And think about this: Regular teachers make on average $300 a day, which works out to $54,600 a year (for a 182-day school year), which is a pittance for someone in such an important position. But given that figure, shouldn’t substitutes be paid half that … $150 a day? Especially when they teach elementary classes where they are expected to teach, not babysit?