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Insurance requirement affecting use of substitute teachers

Because of the Affordable Care Act, school systems must rethink the way they use substitute teachers in the classroom.
In the past, substitutes have been able to work as often as they wanted, said Kristi Rhone, Rowan-Salisbury director of human resources.
Some worked as little as once a year, while others were using it as a full-time job, she said.
“We’ve got a lot of subs who are committed to doing what they need to do,” Rhone said.
But under the Affordable Care Act, all employees who work more than 30 hours a week must be offered health insurance.
“Due to lack of funding for these benefits, Rowan Salisbury Schools will be required to limit the number of days substitutes may work on a weekly basis,” Rhone said in a letter that went out to all substitute teachers.
So, as of January, those substitute teachers are only able to work three and a half days each week to ensure that they don’t go over the 30 hour a week maximum.
The new policy puts a strain on the school system’s pool of substitutes, Rhone said, because it won’t be able to use the same substitute teachers each day.
“We’ve got to build up our sub pool,” she said, adding, “We have vacancies every day.”
To substitute in a Rowan-Salisbury school, a person must have at least a two-year degree or equivalent education, undergo a background check, attend a substitute training class and pass a class on effective teaching habits.
Rhone said a problem-solving committee has been formed to discuss different ways to maximize the substitutes the school system has now and recruit more in the future.
In some cases, Rhone said, the human relations office may approve five-day substitutes to alleviate the pressures of a leave of absence or a vacancy. Those substitutes would be offered health insurance.
Doing this helps “keep the consistency” in a classroom, she said.
Some of our substitutes “have been hired into full-time positions,” Rhone said, adding that it’s a good thing, but it also diminishes the sub pool.
For short-term absences in an elementary school classroom that has a teacher’s assistant, the assistant can substitute in their own classroom for short-term absences and are compensated for their extra effort.
In high schools, a fellow teacher can substitute for a class they are licensed to teach. This is referred to as buying a teacher’s planning period and is primarily used for long-term absences.
Rhone said that schools will also address chronic teacher absences in an effort to alleviate the need for substitutes.

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