Bill that would provide health insurance to full-time substitutes sent to governor’s desk

By Ryan Vortisch, Legislative Reporter, ACLU of Nevada Foundation

This back-to-school season full-time substitute teachers may be eligible to receive health care benefits if Gov. Joe Lombardo approves. 

Assembly Bill 282, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong, a Democrat representing historic West Las Vegas, was adopted by the Senate on Wednesday.  

The bill seeks to provide full-time substitute teachers with a monthly health insurance stipend of $450. Summers-Armstrong says AB282 is an opportunity for lawmakers to demonstrate their care for the substitutes who are “saving our necks” amidst Nevada’s teacher shortage.  

“We’re clear that this is a need,” she said. “It’s just a matter of will.” 

During the Senate Committee review hearing May 15, ACLU of Nevada executive director Athar Haseebullah described the bill as “common sense.”  

“We heard that our districts value our substitute educators,” he said in response to opposition from school districts and the Nevada Association of School Superintendents. “What good are your values, or your concept of values, if you refuse to adequately take care of your employee force?” 

The Clark County School District’s director of government relations, Patricia Haddad, opposed the measure after expressing appreciation for the hard work of substitutes across the state.  

“The opposition has to do with the way in which the subsidy is built out, the total amount of the subsidy, and the mechanism by which it might be able to be provided,” she said.  

Haseebullah responded, saying it’s not an unfunded mandate. He explained the state is continuing to fund education as if classrooms are being staffed by licensed teachers, but school districts are saving upwards of $35,000 annually due to overwhelming teacher vacancies. 

“Every full-time substitute educator that’s put into a classroom ends up being an accrued savings,” he said. 

Tess Opferman, representing the Washoe County School District, also opposed AB282 due to district concerns regarding support for current full-time teachers and staff. 

“We are doing our best at the WCSD to divert funding we have to teacher and staff raises,” Opferman testified. “We do know that health benefits are important to our teachers, and we want to make sure they’re getting those.” 

Chris Daly, with the Nevada State Education Association union, said adopting this measure may even encourage qualified substitutes to continue teaching. 

“With many substitute teachers living close to the poverty line, we should at least ensure their health needs are being met,” he said. 

Summers-Armstrong said medical bills are the leading cause for filing bankruptcy across the nation.  

“We just don’t want to be in a situation where we’re not recognizing that, and backing up what we say with what we do,” she said. 

After passing both chambers this week, the potential for full-time substitutes to receive health benefits rests on the governor.

Ryan Vortisch is the 2023 legislative reporter for the ACLU of Nevada Foundation. He lives in Reno and attends the University of Nevada.