News 5 Investigates

Aug 1, 2014 8:06 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates Update: School districts spending millions on substitute teachers

One year ago, News 5 Investigates revealed school districts in Colorado Springs spending millions of tax dollars on substitutes because of teachers missing class.

After this story ran, districts told us they would look into teacher absences and see what could be done to cut expenses.

Has anything changed?

Four out of seven districts cut substitute costs last school year.

Those districts are D-3, D-8, D-11, and D-12.

Last year, D-11, the largest school district spent the most money on substitutes.

Since 2010, the district spent more than $2 million on substitutes. During the 2012-2013 school year, the district reported a teacher absentee rate of 14.71 percent.

Devra Ashby, spokesperson for D-11 told News 5 in a previous interview that percentage was "average" for the district and pointed to the Black Forest and Waldo Canyon fires for excessive absences among teachers.

Under the Colorado Open Records Act, districts are not required to create or calculate an absentee percentage for the public, so we are unable to get updated information on this.

Below are the new numbers provided to us through the District 11 records department regarding substitute costs:

FY 2010: $2,538,553.23
FY 2011: $2,335,664.94
FY 2012: $2,170,229.88
FY 2013: $2,109,474.21
FY 2014: $1,920,184.56

"It's your job to be there everyday and we want our teachers in the classroom," Samantha Briggs, a spokesperson for District 3 said.

Her district cut expenses by $48,000 during the 2013-2014 school year when compared to the 2012-2013 school year.

Briggs says the goal is to always cut back on absences, but admits it can sometime be unavoidable.

"Employees will be sick, have vacation, and take personal leave," she said. "There are a number of reasons why teachers are out."

Other reasons include professional training and staff development days.

"Our board of education and our administration believe in improving instruction in the classroom and creating a positive learning environment," Briggs said.

State Board of Education representative Paul Lundeen agrees, but told News 5 in a previous interview training should happen outside of the classroom so teachers aren't absent.

"Training should be done away from the core time that service needs to be provided," he said. "Retailers wouldn't train someone during the Christmas rush. A software company wouldn't do their training in the middle of a development and roll out project."

Dates and times for when staff development training sessions happen are determined by each district, not the State.

In fact, we learned the Board of Education in Colorado has no oversight over scheduling staff development days.

School districts are also not required to report subsitute teacher expenses to the board, according to Lundeen.

"There's a lot of authority and power at the local school districts," Lundeen said.

Back at District 3, all future staff development sessions happen outside of the classroom, saving money on substitute teachers. Other districts are on board with this trend too.

However, Briggs says the "true" cost savings can be buried in the numbers, because as school populations grow, so does the need to hire more teachers and substitutes.

Below is data collected for substitute expenses for the 7 major school districts during the 2013-2014 school year:

District 2: $830,723.36 (includes administrative substitutes as well)
District 3: $514,184
District 8: $605,000
District 11: $1,920,184
District 12: $221,509
District 20: $1,622,000
District 49: $1,294,760 (includes administrative substitutes)



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