Today I bring you a guest blog post from David Ryan…I hope you enjoy it:

by David Ryan, guest blogger

Howard County Public School System Superintendent Dr. Michael Martirano recently stated to the Howard County Council during a working session that of the thirteen-years a typical student spends within our public school system, about one year of that time, cumulatively speaking, will be in classrooms led by substitute teachers.

Today, we have a substitute teacher shortage here in Howard County. However, the Board of Education withdrew an initially-proposed $6/day raise for subs (whose bottom pay level is currently $80/day) within the HCPSS FY 2020 budget submitted to the County Council — while keeping in substantial pay raises for both collective bargaining and other non-collective bargaining units.

While many subs view their work as a way to “give back,” that is not drawing enough qualified substitutes to fill both long-term and daily vacancies. The situation is indeed approaching a crisis situation. Subs and on-the-ground school staff know that to be true, and various statistics support that as well.

  • For example, HCPSS used to, up until recently, be able to fill approximately 95% of daily teacher vacancies. Today, that figure is more like 85%.
  • And on Mondays and Fridays, the number of vacancies is often 600+, with only approximately  70 – 75% of those likely to be filled.
  • The number of days subs are being asked to cover all six periods in high schools has increased dramatically. (Salaried high school teachers cover a four or five period load.)
  • And while long-term sub positions used to almost always require certification, that prerequisite, in reality, has pretty much “gone out the window.” Just ask the administration personnel at any  HCPSS school.

Substitute teachers do much more than act as sitters. Even the minimal requirements call for more than that. Most subs try to add some value to the instruction. In fact, some teachers rely on daily subs to actually teach content. For example, while I am not a former teacher, I do have a masters degree, and I happen to know Spanish. So I often conduct skills review and introduce new concepts. My current day rate is $90/day. (Remember, subs do not receive any benefits.) Yeah, do the math.

There are of course other reasons for the severe shortage of substitute teachers. For example, aspiring teachers feel less inclined to view subbing as an entry path. And the current overall high employment rate in our economy is another factor. While, as previously stated above,  many subs see subbing as a way to “give back,” there are indeed many others who must rely on subbing to be one of their significant income streams. Those folks are rapidly being lured away by higher-paying opportunities in today’s economy.

Raising the daily rate by $6 might not fully solve the brewing sub shortage crisis, but to not do that will most certainly serve to only make it worse.

You might ask, what exactly defines “worse”? Already administrators and teachers are scrambling on a daily basis throughout the school system to cover classes, taking them away from their primary duties of providing the quality education we expect here in Howard County. Without a pay raise for subs, that daily scramble will only intensify.

Indeed, there are hard choices to be made within the HCPSS FY 2020 budget. But this matter of raising substitute teacher pay should be viewed as a separate issue from balancing the budget. It is an issue of fairness. And in truth, given the way figures of millions of dollars have been thrown around in various work sessions, providing the subs a $6/day raise would turn out to be pretty much a “rounding number.”

Substitute teachers deserve a raise now given the pay raises that are being allocated throughout the rest of system. As Council Member Liz Walsh said in a recent meeting with the Board of Education and HCPSS leadership, “I do worry that we are leaning on our substitute teachers to fill needs that are in some of the most difficult positions, and that the demands on them are not reasonable when compared to what we are asking our salaried teachers to do, and so to then not include them in pay increases that are otherwise being extended to our other educators, simply because they do not have a negotiated agreement, doesn’t seem equitable.”

Dr. Martirano is to be commended for stating recently that a community-wide review of the whole substitute teacher paradigm needs to be undertaken. And he says plans for that are underway. In the meantime, the Board of Education needs to do the right thing now by providing substitute teachers with the overdue raise of $6/day, regardless of what total funding amount is finally allocated for the HCPSS budget from the county government.

Comments to the HCPSS Board of Education can be written via this email:

David Ryan
m: 301-717-3747
4013 Arjay Circle, Ellicott City, MD 21042

David is a retired video producer who currently runs an online marketing video business. While having never been a certified teacher, he nonetheless very much enjoys “giving back” working also as sub, primarily within high school Spanish and Social Studies classes throughout our great county.


  1. While I do agree that a raise is in order for substitutes, my question is why are there so many substitutes needed when we are already paying teachers? I understand that teachers get sick, their children get sick, but why are there so many teachers out of the classroom especially on Mondays and Fridays? Is it PD…..which is just a waste of time and money? Is it redundant staff meetings……which are just a waste of time?

Comments are closed.