Substitutes stand to earn $500 a day as Fresno Unified School District prepares to recruit replacements in the face of a possible teachers strike.
Superintendent Bob Nelson said 800 to 1,000 substitutes could be needed, and the higher pay rate would help attract fill-ins from throughout the central San Joaquin Valley. The regular substitute rate is $120 to $140 day.
Negotiations between the district and the Fresno Teachers Association have been underway for more than a year. On Tuesday, FTA members are scheduled to take a vote whether to authorize a strike.
Talks continue, Nelson said Wednesday night outside a regular board of trustees meeting.
Both sides are in a “fact-finding” process, he said. Trustees have given approval, Nelson said, to improve what had been the district’s final offer to the union.
“We are actively working to create a solution,” he said, promising details of the offer would be made public as soon as possible.
FTA president Tish Rice was critical of the pay incentive for potential substitutes.
“Paying a substitute $500 a day?” she said when reached by phone. “That means the district budgeted $2 million a day to pay subs if we go out on strike but yet they can’t settle our contract? I think it demonstrates how little the district values our educators.”
But Thursday, the district said the total cost for substitutes could be far less than the FTA’s assessment. The daily cost to the district for substitute pay actually could range from $12,000 to $57,000 because money the district would have spent on teachers for pay and benefits – about $485 a day on average – would instead help cover the cost of employing substitutes, district spokeswoman Jessica Peres Baird said Wednesday.
The district has to be prepared to ensure students’ education is uninterrupted, Nelson said. “Our intention is absolutely to keep schools open, functional and safe for the foreseeable future.”
Fresno Unified’s website details how to become a substitute teacher and includes a link to the application form. Potential subs must have a bachelor’s degree or higher or at least 90 units from an accredited university with proof of continuing attendance and also pass the California Basic Educational Skills (CBEST) test. They will need to complete the Certificated Substitute Special Circumstance application online.
If teachers vote to strike, applicants will need to apply for a substitute permit at the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools, which has pledged to expedite fingerprinting to a single week instead of a month, Peres Baird said. Permit and fingerprinting fees will be waived.
All current certificated substitutes need not follow the application process and will be automatically called for jobs, the district said.