St. Charles school district raising pay to attract more substitute teachers

In the face of a nationwide shortage, St. Charles Unit District 303 plans to boost substitute teachers' pay to attract more.

The district plans to increase the pay from $100 a day to $120 a day starting Nov. 29. Other school districts in the area have also recently increased substitute teacher pay.

"We of course are short on substitute teachers just like everybody," Mark Moore, the district's assistant superintendent of leadership and administrative services, told school board members at the board's business services committee meeting Monday. "Every district that I know of is short of substitute teachers. So one strategy is to try to raise pay."

For substitute teachers who have reached their 31st nonconsecutive day of work, the pay would increase from $125 to $140. The rate for substitute teachers who are filling in for teachers on a long-term basis - such as if they are on medical leave - is set to increase to $200, up from $140.

District 303 Superintendent Jason Pearson stressed the need for a pay increase.

"We need to do as much as we can to increase our substitute pool for our buildings," he said.

Board member Ed McNally agreed the pay increase was necessary.

"I've heard the comments in the community and one of the comments that's been made repeatedly to me is why would I go to St. Charles when I can work an hour less and get $10 more," McNally said. "So I think this is something of a no-brainer."

The pay hike would increase the district's expenses by $200,000 to $300,000, depending on substitute teacher usage for the rest of the school year. But there is funding in the district's budget to support the pay hike.

St. Charles Education Association President Joe Blomquist said he thought the proposed pay hike was a good idea.

"We've got to take actions to bring more subs in, and raising the sub rate is just one of those options," Blomquist said after the meeting.

He attributed the substitute shortage to several factors, including the pandemic.

"We had quite a few retirees that often subbed pre-COVID, and in speaking with some of our retirees, they're not coming into the buildings because they don't want to risk their health," Blomquist said.

Because of the shortage, district teachers are being called upon to sub in classrooms instead of having the time to prepare for lessons and collaborate with their colleagues, he said.

"We'd rather not do that, because we want them to be as prepared for teaching their students as much as possible," Blomquist said. "We're glad that the district is moving forward with this concept of hopefully bringing in more subs because we don't want this to have an adverse effect on the systems."

Blomquist said he has substituted in buildings this year, and "really teachers at all levels have been subbing for one another."

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