By Jennifer Hiller
Advertiser Education Writer
As if it weren't already hard enough to recruit teachers, now the state has thousands of upset substitutes on its hands.
Feeling insulted and shortchanged by a recent decision to not raise substitute pay as expected, a growing number of substitute teachers are wondering what will happen with their paychecks and how valued they are within the system.
Substitute teachers' pay, based on experience and education level, has been between $97.90 and $113.20 a day.
Department of Education officials recently announced that the pay rate for all subs would rise to $133 a day. The DOE said it would start the process to give subs their back pay due for work done this school year.
Then the DOE recanted.
Now it says an interpretation from the attorney general's office and the governor's collective bargaining office says the pay should be $112.92, which is based on pay for a full-time instructor but not a licensed teacher. Substitute pay would still rise, but it would happen gradually over the next few semesters as regular DOE teachers receive the increases guaranteed in their contract.
DOE spokesman Greg Knudsen said the department also will try to continue paying its most experienced substitutes the current $113.20 rate and not give them a pay cut, even though it wouldn't be a pay raise.
Substitute teacher Salome Sato called people at the DOE for weeks before she got an explanation of why she won't get a pay raise. "I called because usually when the teachers get a raise, we get a raise," she said. "When the teacher is gone, we're doing all of their work."
But Sato was told that she wouldn't get a raise because she isn't a union member, a response that has left her and others confused. Substitutes do not have a union and are not members of the Hawai'i State Teachers Association. Their pay has traditionally been tied to the teacher pay scale, though.
A pay rate was approved by the Legislature last year and was supposed to start July 1, but it was never implemented because the DOE said it did not get money to pay for the raises. The governor's office has said that money was provided through the collective bargaining agreement, but DOE officials say they still do not know where the money will come from.
Attorney Eric Ferrer represents 14 substitutes who are seeking to file a class-action lawsuit against the state to recover lost pay. He said the substitutes hope the matter can be resolved without a lawsuit, but so far they aren't getting much of a response from the DOE about its plans for their pay scale. "One sure way to make someone file a lawsuit is to not communicate with them," he said.
The state now has 200 teaching vacancies. With as many as 1,500 projected for the fall semester, Hawai'i educators face an uphill battle in recruiting enough qualified teachers to fill each classroom next year.
State education officials trying to recruit next year's batch of new teachers are dealing with a national shortage of instructors, a declining number of education graduates from local universities and a new federal law that requires a "highly qualified" teacher in every classroom by 2005.
Putting a long-term substitute into full-time teaching positions has increasingly become a necessity in Hawai'i and across the country. That means that substitutes and their pay issue are not likely to go quietly.
Reach Jennifer Hiller at firstname.lastname@example.org.