On Dec. 1, substitute teachers in the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) were notified that they would not be receiving a pay raise after a group of substitutes pressured the Marin County Board of Education to increase their wages, on the grounds that they have been receiving disproportionately low wages relative to surrounding districts.
In previous years, the TUHSD offered some of the highest daily rates for substitute teachers, according to Jes Richardson, a substitute in the district, as compared to other school districts in Marin. However, other local districts have since raised their rates, and the TUHSD has not. This has created an increasing wage gap between districts has provoked a group of substitute teachers to request higher wages from the district office.
Lars Christensen, the Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources of the district, said that the TUHSD has a lower substitute pay rate than other school districts in Marin, as of recent years.
“What’s ironic is that the [TUHSD] used to pay the best. I was the principal at Terra Linda High School for almost 10 years, prior to coming here as the Assistant Superintendent, and I had been on the other side of the argument,” Christensen said. “‘Why can’t you pay as much as the Tam District?’ They would wave that in my face all the time that Tam always paid the most.”
Since 2008, the daily rate for substitutes in the TUHSD has been $100 for teaching four class periods, $120 for teaching five class periods, $130 for teaching five class periods and an advisory period and $140 for six or seven class periods. Substitute teachers in the TUHSD have to work four consecutive blocks in order to earn $140, the already standard rate in the San Rafael City Schools District (SRCSD).
And because most full-time teachers in the district teach a five-period day, and according to Richardson, five periods is standard for a substitute, the substitute receives between $20 and $30 less to teach in the TUHSD than they would in another Marin County district.
In comparison, according to the Novato Unified School District 2016-2017 Certificated Salary Schedule for Teachers and School Nurses, the daily rate in the district for day-to-day substitute teachers is $150.
The daily rate for a substitute teacher in the SRCSD is $140, according to the Certificated Salary Rates for Substitute Teachers document put out by their district.
Lazlo Toth, an educator of 25 years who often substitutes in the TUHSD, said that it is very rare that he makes as much money in one day in the TUHSD as he could in the San Rafael Unified School District.
“Now, the San Rafael District pays $140 a day and I can have a day that is shorter. I have to work four blocks [in the TUHSD] to make $140. That happens maybe once or twice a year because the most you would get is three blocks and an advisory; Very few teachers have four [classes] in a row,” Toth said.
Richardson was among several substitutes advocating higher pay in the district. At a district Board of Education meeting on Oct. 4, Richardson read a letter as a member of the public, asking the Board to consider raising pay for substitute teachers.
Additionally, Richardson, among other substitutes in the district, created the Sub Club, a group pushing for higher wages for substitute teachers in the TUHSD.
“There just hasn’t been any pressure from substitute teachers, so if there’s no pressure then there’s no reason for [the Board of Directors] to give us a raise,” Richardson said. “Districts like the San Rafael District, which doesn’t have nearly as much money as the Tamalpais district, are paying their subs $140, and generally you’ll get $120 at Tam, which just doesn’t seem right to me.”
Toth stated that there is value and skill associated with substitute teaching and raising the wage could, potentially, maintain relations and attract more substitutes to the district.
“To be a good sub, I think, is worth a lot of money,” Toth said. “He has to execute the lesson plan and he’s gotta keep order in the classroom. It takes, I think, a tremendous degree of skill to pull that off, to things get done.”
Christensen explained that the Human Resources department of the district is currently engaged negotiations with Tamalpais Federation of Teachers, the teachers union of the TUHSD and the California School Employees Association, which includes employees including food service workers, clerical support, custodians and maintenance workers and computer specialists.
“We are in the middle of salary negotiations with them, so it would be very very inappropriate to consider any kind of raise or pay increase for substitute teachers who do not work for us—they are independent contractors, they don’t work for us—without first working with our own employees,” Christensen said.
Christensen explained that it is protocol for school districts to work with their own employees to discuss the terms of payment before negotiating salaries with an outside vendor.
“They’re not our employees; they’re on a sub list with the County Office of Education. We call upon them if we need them, we value them, but we need to take care of in-house matters first before we work with external services,” Christensen said.
Christensen believes that substitutes are receiving just pay, but he also thinks that the TUHSD Board needs to look at what other districts are paying and remain competitive with them.
“I do believe that they are receiving a fair wage today, at the same time I think it behooves us to take a hard look at what other districts are paying and make sure that we remain competitive. I don’t know that we have to pay more than anybody else to be competitive, but I do think that we should all be within a very similar range, so we will take a look at that,” Christensen said.
Christensen said that he thinks the Board could, at some point, change the rate of pay for substitutes, but not until they have come to agreements with the employees of the district, including teachers and classified employees.
“I’m not saying that the Board won’t eventually choose to make an adjustment to the salary schedule, but at the same time it would be disingenuous for me to say anything other than that we first need to settle with our two bargaining associations and our management group before making any decision, one way or the other, with subs,” Christensen said.