Using more substitute teachers causes budget shortfall School system to transfer savings in other accounts

March 27, 1997|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,SUN STAFF

The Howard County schools' dramatic increase in the use of substitute teachers this school year means the system will exceed its budget by about $500,000, Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said this week.

The school system will be able to cover the shortfall through savings in other areas of the budget, Hickey said.

But Hickey promised the school board Tuesday night that the system will take steps to reduce the number of days substitute teachers are required -- an increase he described as "unacceptable."

The average number of days that each teacher needs a substitute has increased at least a full day this school year compared with last, Hickey said, from 13.11 substitute days per teacher in 1995-1996 to at least 14.11 substitute days per teacher in 1996-1997. With more than 2,700 teachers in the Howard schools, "that added one day is a fairly significant number," Hickey said.

The increased use of substitute teachers means that the school system is projected to exceed its $2 million substitute-teacher budget by 25 percent this year, Hickey said.

The surge in teacher absences has left as many as half the system's schools short-handed some days because there aren't enough substitute teachers to fill the empty positions.

The school system typically has a pool of 200 to 250 qualified substitutes at any time, but the demands have exceeded those available to work on many days.

Howard school officials have been at a loss to explain why the number of teacher absences has increased. Hickey suggested that there may be more illness in the community this year or that it may stem from a new automated system this year that allows teachers to call in to a computer when they plan to be absent.

A committee has been studying the problem, and Hickey told the board he will bring it a report in May or June on ways to reduce the use of substitute teachers.

He refused to discuss what is being considered.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

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