8News Investigates: The Cost of Substitute Teachers

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — School districts tend to frown upon kids absent from class too frequently… but what about their teachers?

During the first half of the school year, from September to December, Richmond Public Schools spent $238,872 on substitute teachers. Substitutes were called in to fill in for Richmond teachers more than 3400 times in those 4 months.

“That’s a ton of money that we are spending on substitutes.”

The schools reporting the most teacher absences are all elementary schools, including Chimborazo, Fairfield and Southampton Elementary Schools.

On average, teachers at Southampton missed nearly seven days of instruction. That’s disturbing news to school board member Glen Sturtevant.

“No, that is a huge amount of money. A quarter of million dollars that we are spending to hire substitutes to come in a teach our kids is an enormous amount of money that we are not spending on better technology,” Sturtevant says.

A spokesperson for Richmond Public Schools couldn’t tell us why teachers were out so often. In an email, 8News was told “employees are not required to provide documentation or reasons for absences less than five days.”

8News talked to an anonymous Fairfield parent who has her own ideas about why teachers might be calling out.

“A lot of times these teachers are just overwhelmed. You’re looking at 26 students to one teacher. That’s a bit much.”

We were able to confirm that these substitutes are not being used to fill any teacher vacancies.

“It”s a problem not just for the school systems, bottom line,” Sturtevant says. “But it’s also a problem for the continuity of education for our students.”

The National Council on Teacher Quality’s (NCTQ) Managing Director Nancy Waymack says she couldn’t agree more.

“I think it is important for districts to look at how often each individual teacher is absent.”

NCTQ has been taking a roll call of teachers in some of America’s biggest cities and studying the impact on students when their teacher is out.

“We know that when there’s a substitute there’s a chance that they are not getting the good kind of instruction we expect with the regular teacher there.”

Waymack says usually when a sub fills in, there’s no new instruction going on, but rather a review of material.

“It’s a lot of goofing around with substitute teachers,” a Richmond aunt told 8News while picking up her niece and nephew from Southampton.

“I am going to ask Dr. Bedden and the administration to look into it,” Sturtevant said.

Substitute teachers earn just over $72 a day in Richmond.

To see data from Chesterfield Schools, click HERE: Chesterfield Schools substitute data.

To see full data from Richmond Schools, click HERE: Richmond Schools substitute data.

To see full data from Henrico Schools, click HERE: Henrico Schools substitute data.

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