District Trendline

May 2015: Substitute Teachers

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Substitute teachers are in the news more than usual lately, from reports of shortages and outsourcing to proposed changes in state law around substitutes' education requirements. This month, our Teacher Trendline takes a look at substitute teacher policies, covering education and licensing requirements, salary and benefits.

Education and licensing requirements

Most districts do not appear to require a college degree of their substitutes.  Across the districts in the Teacher Contract Database, 49 districts require substitute teachers to have a Bachelor's degree, 40 require an Associate's degree or some college credit and 13 require only a high school diploma or GED. While most districts address this issue in their contracts, 18 districts do not explicitly outline education requirements for substitutes. 

It is not as clear whether districts require substitutes to have a teaching license.  Almost half of the districts in the database do not address the issue. This may be due to the fact that licensure is generally an issue decided by the state.  For the districts that do not mention substitute licensing requirements in their contracts or local board policies, we look to state regulations: 13 districts are in a state that requires a license, while 27 are in states that do not. 

Of the districts that do address substitute licensing in local policy, nine (Anchorage, Bismarck, Fort Wayne (IN), Los Angeles, San Diego, Spokane, Philadelphia, Kanawha County (WV), andSeattle) require substitutes to have a full teaching license. Bostonand Brevard County (FL) have somewhat unique policies: substitutes are required to have licenses (a teaching license in Boston and a substitute license in Brevard) unless they have a Bachelor's degree in education.  


The vast majority (two-thirds) of the districts in the database do not address whether substitute teachers are evaluated. Of the 26 districts that require substitutes to be evaluated, eight (Los Angeles, Hillsborough County (FL), Boston, New York City, Charleston County (SC), Nashville, Norfolk and Virginia Beach City) only require long-term substitutes to be evaluated. An additional ten districts have policies where evaluating substitutes is optional.


The most common minimum daily pay rate for substitutes among the districts in the Teacher Contract Database is between $71 and $90 per day. The districts in our database with the highest minimum daily rates are Portland, OR ($182/day), Los Angeles ($173/day) and Milwaukee ($158/day). 

It is worth noting that districts often differentiate substitute teacher pay based on qualifications or experience. Of the districts in the database, 66 differentiate pay based on at least one of the following criteria: the type of license a substitute holds, level of education or experience, or the number of days taught. For example, the minimum rate in Austin is $75 per day, but substitutes with a college degree earn $80 per day and substitutes with a teaching license earn $85 per day.  

Pay is, of course, only one part of compensation. Some districts provide health care coverage to substitutes, but the majority of districts do not address this issue at all in contract or board policy.

Of the 28 districts that provide health coverage, half provide health insurance only for long-term or full-time substitutes, while the other half have other criteria for deciding who is eligible.

Outsourcing substitute teachers

Des Moines and Philadelphia recently made headlines (here and here) for considering outsourcing substitute teachers through a private staffing company rather than hiring them through the district.

Just how prevalent is this phenomenon? According to 2014 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the vast majority of substitute teachers (93 percent) are employees of elementary and secondary schools, but about 5 percent of substitutes work for temporary employment services. While outsourcing substitute teachers isn't a big trend yet, it will be interesting to see how districts' substitute teacher policies change if it becomes a more common practice; rest assured we'll cover those changes in a future Teacher Trendline