The last straw’: Most CCSD subs go unpaid during school closure

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Yasmina Chavez

An attendee holds up a protest sign during a Clark County School Board meeting Thursday, March 14, 2020.

Tue, Mar 24, 2020 (2 a.m.)

Hundreds of substitute teachers in the Clark County School District are among the countless Las Vegans who are unemployed indefinitely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many substitutes say the district’s decision not to pay them while salaried employees continue to get paid during the school closures is part of a larger pattern of disrespect at a time when the district’s licensed teacher shortage appears to be increasing.

The Clark County School District currently employs 93 long-term substitutes, 706 substitutes in full-time vacancies, 619 certified temporary tutors and 4,265 day-to-day substitutes, public information specialist Bryan Callahan said. Only certified temporary tutors and substitutes in vacancy positions — who perform the same duties as full-time teachers for significantly lower pay — will be compensated during the school closures, which are expected to last until April 13.

The decision to pay those employees was announced Monday, thanks to concerted organizing and pressure on behalf of substitutes, substitute Fernando Valenzuela said.

“The only reason why CCSD is deciding to pay subs is for the simple fact that we’ve been agitating and organizing for the last few months,” Valenzuela said. “Had we not been doing that, we wouldn’t be on their radar.”

Substitutes have not received raises in almost 20 years, according to several who were employed by the district prior to schools closing last week. They also have no sick days or personal days and do not receive health insurance, said Valenzuela, who has been a CCSD substitute since October.

“These are all issues that needed to have been addressed decades ago and are only exacerbated by the fact that we’re not going to get paid for the next three weeks,” he said.

Day-to-day substitutes at most CCSD schools earn $12.50 per hour, according to the district’s Human Resources Unit. At high-risk schools, they earn $15.28 per hour. Long-term substitutes replacing teachers on maternity leave, sick leave or other temporary absences as well as substitutes filling permanent vacancies earn slightly more. Those in permanent vacancies at high-risk schools earn the most, at $20.83 per hour.

As a substitute in a full-time vacancy position, Valenzuela is one of the lucky ones who will be compensated for the next three weeks. While he is pleased to learn that he and other vacancy substitutes will get paid, he says long-term substitutes and day-to-day substitutes should be paid, too, as many rely on the job to make ends meet, he said.

“They’re still leaving out thousands and thousands of employees,” Valenzuela said.

Brandon Summers is one of those employees. He has been working as a day-to-day substitute since 2016, typically for two-three school days per week. The pay supplements his income as a musician, but since coronavirus hit Las Vegas, he hasn’t been able to make money from either job.

The district’s refusal to pay substitutes like him is just one way that these employees are mistreated, Summers said.

“It’s another slap in the face that subs are disposable,” he said.

Like vacancy substitutes, long-term substitutes perform functions similar to those of full-time teachers, albeit for shorter periods of time, Valenzeula said. They typically take over a class for several weeks or months when a salaried teacher goes on sick leave, maternity leave or takes another type of leave of absence.

Long-term substitute Lisa Roe was overseeing a classroom for kindergarten, first- and second-grade students with learning disabilities at Adcock Elementary School prior to schools closing. The retired CCSD teacher said she was disappointed to hear that she wouldn’t be paid during the school closure, even as virtually all other district employees continue to get compensated.

“We have no benefits, no sick days, nothing. They should give us something,” Roe said.

Superintendent Jesus Jara said during the Clark County School District Board of Trustees meeting Monday that there are “no definitive plans” to pay long-term substitutes or day-to-day substitutes. Because the district relies extensively on substitutes, Trustee Linda Cavazos urged him to try to find money to pay them.

“When and if we do go back to school, our district is not able to survive without our substitutes,” Cavazos said.

Trustee Danielle Ford said she has heard from substitutes who have showed up to work every day for months or years and are now struggling to make ends meet while schools stay closed. Some are now facing homelessness, Ford said.

“We were already planning on paying them this money because we estimated how much we need to pay all our subs,” Ford said. “Where will that money be going if not to them?”

The district’s budget includes the costs of education days for licensed personnel and substitutes, Callahan said.

“However, there are both federal and state requirements to have a minimum number of education days and this could require additional costs for substitutes in the future, which would need to be covered by the current budget,” he wrote in an email.

Despite her appreciation for getting paid for the next three weeks, vacancy substitute Lisa Coppock said it is unclear whether substitutes in those positions will continue to be compensated if schools stay closed beyond April 13. Although her salary is set for the next three weeks, she is still concerned about her lack of health insurance, now in the midst of a global health crisis, she added.

“People need health care, and we can’t go to the doctor,” Coppock said.

For now, substitutes are continuing to organize for better pay, benefits and respect from the district, Valenzuela said. He and other substitutes have been sending emails to school officials along with state lawmakers to make their demands known, he said.

Absent significant changes to the way substitutes are treated, Valenzuela expects many substitutes to call it quits soon.

“This is the last straw for many of them,” Valenzuela said.

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