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Facing "chronic" shortage, Ann Arbor schools up substitute teacher pay

Hallway in Huron High School in Ann Arbor.
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The Ann Arbor Public Schools is trying new tactics to deal with a “chronic” lack of enough substitute teachers.

Starting this month, the district will up sub pay from $75 to $100 a day. Officials also plan to raise pay rates for classroom assistants, though those rates haven’t been set yet.

The district will also try and assemble a team of “premier” substitutes, says Ann Arbor schools’ spokesman Andrew Cluley.

“They’ll get a little bit more money, but they also will commit themselves to working a set number of days per month,” Cluley says.

Cluley says the district also hopes “our friends in Lansing help us out a bit as well” — by re-authorizing a law, which lapsed in 2102, that lets retired teachers act as subs without jeopardizing their state pensions and other benefits.

“As our recently retired teachers have long proven to be among the most competent, committed and caring candidates as substitute teachers, we will advocate for the passage of HB 4059 which is now on the Senate floor after being amended to allow retires to work through 2018 while still collecting their pension,” AAPS Superintendent Jeanice Kerr Swift said in an email to district staff last week.

The district hopes these and other steps will improve the “quantity and quality” of substitutes available, Swift says. She says other “progressive steps” AAPS has taken over the course of the past year to combat the shortages haven’t panned out as they hoped.

School districts throughout Michigan and nationwide have struggled with a sub shortage that’s gotten worse this year.

It’s not entirely clear what’s driving it, though school officials cite a combination of an improving economy with more job options,  more mandated professional development, and outside-the-classroom work for teachers.

Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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