Editorial: Higher Salary Would Ease Substitute Teacher Shortage | Editorials

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The fact that Kingsport City Schools took two unscheduled days off on Thursday and today was directly due to COVID-induced staffing shortages. Indirectly, it’s because school districts don’t pay substitute teachers enough money to bother them.

The average Kingsport teacher earns around $200 a day, according to ZipRecruiter, a job market for job seekers and employers. A certified substitute teacher with at least a bachelor’s degree is paid $75 a day at Kingsport, or just over $9 an hour. The entry-level salary at McDonald’s is $11 to $17 per hour.

It’s not a particular fault of the city’s school system. Across the country, substitute teachers are grossly underpaid. This may be partly due to the fact that in normal times there is not a great demand for them. But these are not normal times, and districts are begging replacements and even retired teachers to return to classes.

But if you’re a retired Kingsport teacher with decades of experience who was at or near the top of the pay scale when you hung up your eraser and laser pointer, you’ll be paid less than half of what you earned for less than $100 a day. It’s $500 a week. Pathetic.

ZipRecruiter reports that the average substitute teacher salary by state ranges from $15.61 per hour in Massachusetts to $10.65 per hour in Mississippi. Tennessee earns an average of $11.70 per hour.

Besides, the teachers are not very well paid either. The national average salary for K-12 teachers is $64,524, and it varies widely from state to state. The nation’s highest salary for new teachers is in New York, where the average teacher salary is $85,889. California and Massachusetts follow with $82,282 and $82,042 respectively.

Mississippi has the lowest average teacher salary at $45,574, followed by West Virginia at $47,826. Other states with average teacher salaries below $50,000 per year include New Mexico, Florida, South Dakota, Kansas, and Arizona. In Tennessee, it’s $51,349, but that doesn’t impress with 37 states paying teachers more.

Paying substitute teachers more money to fill vacancies due to COVID-19 was a priority during a Kingsport Board of Education working session on Tuesday. Member Todd Golden suggested that adding an extra $50 to replacement pay might have prevented schools from closing for two days. “I really wish we never closed like this for the rest of the year,” Golden said.

He won’t get any arguments from the parents. “What I’m saying is create as much normalcy as possible,” Golden said. “Money makes the difference.”

Indeed it is, and why does it not come from the federal government? Looks like the Feds are bailing out everyone from lawyers to pig farmers. Is there nothing left for the teachers and substitute teachers who are making the biggest difference in our children’s lives and who need help now?

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