picture by: Dylan Lysen/Lawrence Journal-World
An employment agency says the Lawrence School District’s low pay for substitute teachers compared to surrounding districts is causing some substitute teachers to decline in Lawrence.
The district uses daily replacements as needed and also contracts for long-term replacements through the employment agency Morgan Hunter, which has asked the district to increase its salary to address the issue of the decline in replacement jobs. The district shared the agency’s request with the school board this week. Angela Hunt, director of the Morgan Hunter program for education, said the agency heard from employees about the topic and that informed the request.
“Several people have told us, ‘We’ve been working here for so many years and we haven’t had a raise for a while,'” Hunt said.
The Lawrence School District currently pays daily substitutes a rate of $105 per day and long-term substitutes a rate of $130 per day, according to a staffing report provided to the Lawrence School Board on Monday. This equates to $13.13 per hour for daily replacements and $16.25 for long-term replacements, assuming an eight-hour workday. Morgan Hunter recommends the district increase its daily and long-term pay rates by $5 to $15 a day.
Hunt said the recommended raise would bring Lawrence closer to the salary provided by surrounding districts. She said that with the exception of two districts in Douglas County that are considerably smaller, the district of Lawrence has the lowest rate in the region. She said a more typical rate for the roughly 30-mile radius around Lawrence, which includes Johnson County and some Kansas City suburbs, is around $120 or $130 a day, which means Lawrence’s fare is about 14% to 24% lower than typical.
Hunt noted that prices were rising everywhere, and Morgan Hunter made the request because it had been some time since the district’s last pay increase and the agency wanted to make sure its employees’ pay kept up.
“We just want to make sure they get paid for the hard work they do,” Hunt said.
Morgan Hunter’s request will ultimately be another budgetary consideration for the school board. In addition to daily replacements, there are 11 certified positions currently filled by long-term replacements through Morgan Hunter.
Regarding difficulties finding replacements to work at Lawrence, district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said the district continues to monitor its fill rate of replacements. Boyle said the district hasn’t seen it drop much below 80% lately, unless there have been extenuating circumstances, like a large teacher training. As to whether the district plans to increase the replacement salary, Boyle said any increase would be assessed alongside the district’s other financial needs through the budget process, which includes the recently formed Futures Planning Committee.
“The district has already discussed the need to increase substitute teacher salaries,” Boyle said in an email. “Much like other district needs, this is now part of a larger conversation, our school community continues to discuss how best to balance student needs and district goals and priorities with the limited resources available. “
Boyle said as part of a six-month community engagement process tied to the work of the committee, the district will conduct a public inquiry in October and hold two public consultation sessions in January. She said the committee’s recommendations would ultimately be forwarded to the board in February.
Mention of Morgan Hunter’s request was included in the staffing report, which also included information on the number of classified and certified resignations, vacancies and current workforce. The district currently has 31 vacancies for teachers or other certified personnel. There are currently 114 vacant classified positions, representing a vacancy rate of 17%. In addition to the 11 long-term replacements contracted through Morgan Hunter, an additional 20 special education and special education support positions — made up of 14 certified positions and six classified positions — are being filled through various other contractual services, according to information provided by the district to the Journal-Monde.
In addition to replacement pay, unions representing both certified and classified staff have advocated for pay increases for their employees. About $1.9 million of the $6.4 million in budget cuts approved by the school board for this school year were to provide increases to district staff, an amount below union goals. More than 200 teachers resigned or retired last year, and Monday’s presentation also included information on exit interviews, where salary was the most frequently cited issue by respondents, as reported by the Journal-World. The union representing classified staff also said recently low salaries contribute to the high number of vacancies in the district, which in turn affects students.