Austin ISD cuts most substitute teachers during COVID-19 changes

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — As school campuses remain closed and classes move to an online format, KXAN has learned the majority of substitute teachers in the Austin Independent School District have officially been let go.

A tip sent to the KXAN Investigative Team said his wife was a part-time substitute, and received an email Monday night sent by the AISD Office of Human Capital informing her she was no longer an active employee.

Jared D. Breckenridge said he was also one of the part-time AISD substitutes cut from the district. According to his Twitter account, he is also a student at Huston-Tillotson University and posted a screenshot of the AISD letter, which said in part:

“Our campuses are currently closed, and the district is working to develop unique strategies and plan for instructional and operational continuity. This impacts the way in which we will be able to serve our students and communities and greatly limits our need for substitute services at this time.”

The letter goes on to say:

As circumstances change, we may consider different ways of fulfilling our future needs as a district for substitute services. However, until such time, we are ending your assignment and status as an active substitute in our district systems.”

In a statement to KXAN from AISD’s human resources department, it said the district determined it needed to tell these employees that the likelihood of future assignments was limited due to school campuses shutting down as a result of COVID-19.

A limited number of substitutes who met the following criteria are still active:

  • Long-term or permanent substitutes who currently or will support a long-term vacancy, an employee on leave or an identified improvement required campus
  • Substitutes who have worked 100+ days in the 2019-2020 school year
  • Substitutes reviewed by principals and supervisors and designated as active and essential for ongoing specific positions during the district closure

The district said the subs that remain on active status will be eligible to accept or fulfill new or previously accepted assignments deemed essential and receive compensation for those assignments in order to support future teacher vacancies or absences.

Substitutes who did not meet the criteria were designated as inactive, and received a letter informing them of the status change.

Substitutes in AISD are only paid when they are called upon to fill a position on any given day. According to the district, all substitutes will be compensated for work completed prior to March 13th.

KXAN asked AISD what the cost savings will be since they are no longer paying substitute teachers. The district said it is difficult to determine at this time.

KXAN has also asked for the exact number of substitutes who were moved to inactive status, and the number of those who remain active, but has not received a response yet.

Inactive substitutes would also like to know if they will need to reapply for their positions with the district when classes resume on school campuses, and if they will be required to pay for their own background checks again.

In a KXAN story last October regarding raises for AISD substitute teachers, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said there was a demand of at least 600 substitutes per day across AISD’s 129 campuses which serve about 83,000 students.

KXAN has reached out to several other Central Texas school districts to see how they’re handling the situation.

The Leander Independent School District said it is not cutting part-time subs from its system. LISD communications coordinator Matt Mitchell said those employees are still technically active and ready to work, but there is just no work right now due to campuses being closed.

The district’s long-term substitutes are still working and supporting teachers as they move to a distance learning model, according to Mitchell. He estimated there to be about 20 to 30 long-term subs in the district.

One Texas school district continues to pay subs

The president of the Texas State Teachers Association, Noel Candelaria, applauded El Paso ISD for its efforts to continue paying substitute teachers. He said it has decided to take the average pay for substitutes in January and February and continue paying them the same amount for the remainder of the school year.

“They know and understand how important our substitutes are to the system,” said Candelaria. “The last thing we need to do is to have substitutes that all of the sudden find alternate work and then we lose some of the quality subs that we have in our schools right now because they have to figure out how to be able to provide for their families as well.”

The TSTA launched a petition this week to demand that the governor protect Texas students, educators and communities by agreeing to fully fund public schools throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.

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