By Camalot Todd, Nevada Current
This piece was originally published by the Nevada Current.
Nevada school districts would have to provide at least a $450 monthly health care coverage stipend for long-term substitute teachers who are hired for 30 or more consecutive days, under a bill sponsored by several Democratic members of the assembly that passed out of a legislative panel Thursday.
Nevada has an ongoing teacher shortage and substitute teachers have been used more frequently, at pay capped at $120 per day with no benefits. The $450 stipend is based on the average monthly cost of non-Medicare/Medicaid insurance plans in the state, according to a report submitted by the ACLU of Nevada.
“These are the same educators that fill classrooms and they’re not entitled to any benefits and in fact, many districts statewide actually have specifications that a long-term substitute, a short-term substitute teacher, any substitute teacher for that matter will be entitled to no benefits,” Athar Haseebullah, the ACLU of Nevada Executive Director, said at the Assembly Education Committee hearing.
“So what do we have? We have individuals who are stuck filling the gaps day in and day out, teaching our kids, and no support,” he said.
The Clark County School District testified against the measure, citing an existing policy under which long-term substitute teachers qualify for health care after working for a year.
Under the original version of Assembly Bill 282 substitute teachers would qualify for the stipend after 15 consecutive days, but the amended version that passed out of committee increased the requirement to 30 days. The bill’s supporters estimate nearly 1,000 substitutes in Nevada would meet that requirement.
“Imagine a recruitment strategy where you have to work for a year to get health insurance, you can go to any retail operation and get health insurance after 30 days,” Haseebullah said.
Haseebullah said that the districts have allocated funds for unfilled teachers that are not being used that can be used for this stipend.
In addition to ACLU NV, supporters of the bill include the Nevada State Education Association, Educate Nevada Now, Opportunity 180, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, Battle Born Progress, Nevada NOW, and Teach For America.
Lawmakers were also presented with written testimony from dozens of substitute teachers describing their experiences as long-term substitutes in Nevada struggling to afford health care.
The Nevada Association of School Superintendents and the Washoe County School District joined CCSD in opposing the bill.