The Eanes ISD board of trustees voted 5-1-1 to increase substitute pay at its Oct. 19 meeting, with Board Member Laura Clark voting against the proposal and Board Member Ellen Balthazar abstaining.
The decision will raise the pay for substitutes from $103 to $120 per day and increase pay for long-term roles—occupancies longer than 31 days—from $128 to $150 per day. New rates will still compensate an additional $10 for special education teaching positions, and further supplemental pay rates for specialized positions will be considered.
The percentage of substitute positions able to be filled, with regard to the number of open positions, is called the fill rate. The current substitute fill rate at EISD is 50%-60%, compared to 30%-40% in other local districts, Chief Human Resources Officer Laurie Lee said. Lee also said most substitutes in EISD recently have come from out of district. Based on substitute fill rates in the previous year, the proposal costs an additional $200,000 and does not account for potential substitute staffing fill rates rising as a result of higher pay.
“If you think about the competition, we have no choice but to keep up,” Board Member Jennifer Champagne said. “If the people we’re getting are coming by and large from outside our district, that means they’re applying at Hayes, they’re applying at Lake Travis, they’re applying at Austin ISD, and at what point does the money win out?”
Though EISD has a 10%-20% higher fill rate than neighboring districts, these numbers still fall below staffing goals, Lee said. Pre-pandemic, the goal for fill rates in EISD was 85%-100%, and that is the goal being worked toward now, according to Lee. Teachers and administration have had to "get creative" in trying to fill vacancies in high school classrooms, including teachers shuffling during their conference periods to lend a hand, Lee said.
Changes will also be made to compensate substitutes appropriately based on whether they hold a degree and substitute teacher certification, which is not required by EISD. This adjustment will make EISD pay rates more competitive with local districts such as Lake Travis ISD and Hays ISD, both of which raised their substitute pay to at least $120 daily in recent months, according to the districts' websites.
Some board members raised concerns that increased rates would not draw more substitutes to EISD but rather place additional financial burden on the district with little reward. Clark voted against the proposal, while Balthazar abstained due to a personal connection with a substitute teacher.
“I think there is a finite number of substitutes out there right now,” Clark said. “These other districts have more money; they have more ability to pay. They’re going to be able to keep outpaying us. I don’t think we can get into a pay contest with other districts. We have to offer other things.”
Though the pay increase may not increase substitute fill rates, it might lower attrition, Superintendent Tom Leonard said.
“We’re just in a really difficult position,” Leonard said. “It may not necessarily help our fill rate, but it may prevent our fill rate from getting worse.”
Increasing substitute pay is EISD’s latest effort to alleviate teacher shortages caused by the pandemic, a problem facing many Texas schools. In May, EISD instituted a 2% increase in substitute compensation alongside similar raises for other staff. January also marked the decision to set aside 10% of teacher fund donations from the Eanes Education Foundation’s 10 for 10 Stronger Together Fund to hire 10 permanent, full-time substitutes.
“We understand that this may not fix our problem, but we do hope that we can honor the substitutes we have working for us, that maybe we can bring back some substitutes we know have migrated different ways,” Lee said. “We have substitutes in the classroom every day, and they are working hard for our district.”
Editors note: This story was updated to include percentage of fill rates for school districts and additional comments from Chief Human Resources Officer Laurie Lee.