The California Association of Substitute Teacher’s Official Position Statement on AB 1982
California Association Of
Re: Opposition to AB 1982 – As Amended in the Assembly 5/11/2020
Dear Assemblyman Cunningham;
I am writing today with respect to AB 1982, as Amended in the Assembly 5/11/2020. Before I get into the specifics of this letter, please accept our apologies for our late opposition to your measure. Our lateness was caused by three concepts:
- The pandemic forced schools to close suddenly;
- We had to organize professionally, and
- Just when we had things ready to go, the measure was amended and we had to review, discuss and then re-take our position. By then, it was too late to address the measure, especially since it was headed to the Assembly Floor for debate and discussion.
With that in mind, the newly formed California Association of Substitute Teachers (CAST) would like to go on record as being OPPOSED to AB 1982, as amended 5/11/2020.
That said, CAST appreciates and understands the growing need for quality Substitute Teachers in our schools, but don’t believe your measure properly tackles the problem. As such, we are OPPOSED to AB 1982 for the following reasons:
- AB 1982 will economically harm over 70,000 currently credentialed Substitute Teachers, either limiting our abilities to work, or worse – putting many of us out of work;
- AB 1982 lowers the quality of classroom educators, specifically Substitute Teachers;
- AB 1982 provides zero subject matter credential enhancement assistance;
- AB 1982 provides zero training assistance in subjects like school safety;
- AB 1982 does nothing to put more educators in classrooms, rather in many cases it clearly replaces experienced substitutes with inexperienced ones;
- AB 1982 does not put any new substitutes in the classroom during the first ½ of the 2020-2021 school year;
- AB 1982 does nothing toprotect, train or educate Substitute Teachers on Germ, First-Aid and Safety techniques that will clearly be needed in the upcoming pandemic year;
- AB 1982 does nothing to reimburse substitutes for equipment and supplies, including paper, pencils and now personal protective devices;
- AB 1982 does not take care of the inequities relative to the definition of ‘employee’ as used by school districts;
- AB 1982 does not protect or enhance the employee ‘rights’ of substitutes;
With those most basic of thoughts in mind, I would like to take a moment to address the number one perceived reason for this measure. Sadly, we believe that members of the legislature have been sold a ‘false bill of goods’. We will address this in two parts. First, the public continually hears that there is a massive shortage of Substitute or Guest Teachers in the school system. And although this is true, it’s not for the reasons that you have been told – it is because of the second reason – namely the way Substitutes are treated by the school districts they work in. Because of poor treatment, many are forced to leave the profession, especially when in many instances, it takes over 60 days to get paid.
For example, did you know that:
- Even though we are employees, school districts are fighting our ability to collect Unemployment Benefits, even during the pandemic (this is based on the confusing definition of employee that is used);
- Schools keep black lists, and regularly put Substitute Teachers on the list for the simplest of things – including asking for bathroom breaks, the number of students that are sent to the office for some school infraction in the classroom, asking for help with technical equipment or even not understanding poorly written lesson plans that often are found on a sticky notes;
- Substitutes are not told about the above referenced blacklists and have no way of fighting back once placed on them (In fact, we are not even told when placed on them and should we find out – there is no system in place for us to challenge that decision);
- Quite often, ‘breaks’ (prep periods) are taken away from us, without any financial remuneration;
- Pay often takes between sixty and ninety days to receive while regular teachers and staff are paid every 30 days;
- On minimum days, some schools require substitutes to “sit in the office’ for over 90 minutes, just waiting for the 3PM bell to ring. If we ask questions, or don’t sit in the office like school children, we are placed on the black list and denied the opportunity to work;
- Many of California’s school districts have not implemented current state law with respect to sick leave and other required benefits;
- Many substitutes are denied a living wage;
- Districts compete against each other for salaries. For example, I work in 3 districts, and one pays $185 and provides minimal sick leave benefits, while another pays $170 and provides zero benefits. The third pays $154 and there is no question that they provide zero benefits. If you were a substitute, which district would you work for?;
- Instead of having to register with the County Board of Education, we are forced to register with each district. This costs not just time, but money for fingerprints. If we were registered with the county, we could not only save money, but work in multiple school districts to help fulfill the need in the community;
- We are required to ‘reserve jobs’ from the job board, and these jobs are often cancelled at the last minute – sometimes just as we walk through the office door, and we have no recourse (and lose a day’s pay);
- We are often subjected to sexual, religious and political discriminatory actions, yet have no place to complain or appeal;
As you can see, we face a variety of problems. But they do not stop there. What makes this horrible is this: it is estimated that on any given day, there are at least 2 Substitute Teachers working in every school in the state. Additionally, to make matters worse, we are often warned by district professionals, that should we ‘complain’ to anyone (like the Labor Commissioner or Legislature) we will be fired. To go one-step further, I was told that should I take a position on this legislation, I would not have a job when the school year starts, even though I received a Notice of Prospective Employment (which has been used to deny my ability to collect unemployment).
The best misnomer of all is this: Substitute Teachers are part of the bargaining process. I want to make this clear – except in a couple of instances (LA and SF) we do not belong to unions and no one represents us in negotiations, yet districts negotiate our salaries with unions and we have no say! As such, we are denied benefits, rights and the respect we deserve.
Not to beat a dead horse, but to go one step further, not only do teachers tell their students that we are “incompetent and ignorant”, but many tell their students that “if we were educated then we would not be subs – we would be full time educators!” (For the record, I spent over 40 years working in the California Legislature, have taught full time and retired to take care of my mother. I started subbing in 2002 when I entered law school at the age of 45. On that note, I have several degrees, including a law degree. Additionally, if you ask administrators, I am professional, organized and come prepared with my own lesson plans should there be problems with others!). To make matters worse, educators do not know how to properly prepare lesson plans, leave us with no seating charts, fail to tell us which students have medical, emotional or educational problems, and in this day and age, are denied access to the internet.
Combined, we often look unprofessional or incompetent because we often walk into a room with materials hidden, missing or incomplete, and when we speak to the office about it. What is really sad here is this: if this happens, we find ourselves on the black list.
With that background in mind, I have the following suggestions on how to remove our opposition (one of the following concepts):
- Require school districts to provide us with training, both on subject matter and overall operations – especially emergency and first aid. To that note, the attached document offers suggestions on how this can be done. Make no doubt about it, but this will make a difference in the 2020-2021 school year;
- Allow school districts to have Substitute Teachers organize and be represented by a negotiating team when contracts are discussed;
- Eliminate the unfair blacklists;
- Require country boards of education to create a pool of substitutes, and have them service the total districts that they represent;
- Provide Substitutes with a recognized standard of living, including requiring payment of salaries on a bi-weekly basis;
- Clarify our standing as employees, and the rights we receive;
- Require school districts to provide uniform income standards;
Before I close, as I mentioned above, I have provided a proposed piece of legislation that we believe will be more important as the school year starts. Additionally, many of the ideas mentioned here, are written and available for both review and discussion.
In closing, the concepts embodied in this letter are experienced by Substitutes in every corner of the state, and lead directly to the shortage districts face. In our opinion, AB 1982 does nothing to rectify any of those problems and help put quality Substitute or Guest Teachers in the classroom. We look forward to working with you to remove our opposition.