News & Media

6 of 16 Lancaster County school districts raise daily rate for substitute teachers

08/17/2017 LancasterOnline By Lindsey Blest

Some school districts say they have problem finding substitute teachers.

Others say they’re fine.

This year, six of the 16 Lancaster County school districts are raising their daily rate of pay for substitute teachers in an effort to meet the need.

Even though some schools don’t have a problem finding substitutes, there is a statewide shortage of teachers, according to Flip Steinour, the human resources director at Intermediate Unit 13.

“If everyone that’s certified gets hired into a regular position, that means there are no more people to be substitutes,” Steinour said.

“It’s a crisis,” he said.

Substitutes at Eastern Lancaster County School District will be paid $125 per day instead of $120 this year, according to superintendent Robert Hollister.

“We are in dire need of substitute teachers,” Hollister said. “We’re trying to get more money in the hands of all subs.”

Officials at Lampeter-Strasburg School District also approved upping pay from $120 to $125 a day.

“We believe that the pay increase appropriately addresses the critical need of filling classrooms with qualified substitute teachers,” according to superintendent Kevin Peart.

Both districts are in the third consecutive year of raising rates from what was $100 a day before the first jump to $110 for the 2015-16 year.

Based on responses from all 16 districts, the daily pay range is between $110 and $125 for the 2017-18 year.

Scrambling for coverage

Thirteen Lancaster County districts use a company called Substitute Teacher Services. The districts pay the company a set rate per sub, so the teachers are employed by the company, not the district for which they are subbing.

The rate varies from district to district, according to the service. For example, Solanco School District pays STS $149.32 per sub per day. Teachers are paid $110 per day.

A new school year is fast approaching and Lancaster County school officials will once again …

But some days, the positions don’t get filled.

“There will be multiple days when we are without subs (this year),” Hollister said.

To compensate, teachers are pulled from planning periods to cover classes, or classes are combined, “which does not go over well with everybody,” Hollister said.

Without enough substitutes to take teachers’ roles, districts scramble to make sure classrooms have coverage for the day, according to Peter Kishpaugh, assistant principal at Ephrata High School.

Ephrata launched a virtual sub program midway through the 2016-17 year. In it, teachers record lessons that students can watch on their school-issued laptops.

The program saved the district from providing coverage for over 40 classes, according to spokeswoman Sarah McBee.

Another option for districts is to hire students studying at four-year colleges who have earned 60 credits, a provision made under Act 86 of 2016.

George Drake, dean of education at Millersville University, said he is not aware of any students who substitute taught last year.

“It’s probably because the bill is so new,” Drake said. “I don’t know that any districts really had a chance to put procedures in place to make it happen.”

He’s heard from about half a dozen districts this year who wanted to list substitute positions for eligible Millersville University students.

Drake said students taking the substitute roles could help districts with shortages, but he said he has some concerns with the students taking on the responsibility of a teacher while working toward their degree.

Not a problem at all schools

Some school districts say a substitute shortage is not an issue.

Last year Manheim Central School District had an overall teaching fill rate — or the percent of staff needed for a school day — close to 96 percent, according to superintendent Peter Aiken.

State and national trends do indicate a substitute shortage overall, Aiken said.

“I think there are fewer people going into the (teaching) profession. It’s a byproduct of that,” Aiken said.

The district is keeping a rate of $110 per day for substitutes this year. Raising the payment, he said, doesn’t address the root cause of the shortage.

“All you’re doing is competing with the other school districts,” he said. “I’m not sure that will draw more people into the (substitute) pool.”

Elizabethtown Area School District will occasionally have days with an issue, but the district hasn’t noted any unusual shortages, according to spokesman Troy Portser.

Manheim Township had a fill rate above 92 percent last year, according to spokeswoman Marcie Brody. This year, the district’s sub payment rate is rising from $110 to $120.

“We do not anticipate it being any harder this year,” Brody said. “We are hoping with the rate increase that it will help.”

Read More