Fairfax Co. school board votes to increase substitute teacher pay

Citing a shortage of substitute teachers, the Fairfax County School Board in Virginia on Thursday night voted unanimously to increase pay as much as $3 per hour for substitutes starting next month.

The plan, which Superintendent Scott Brabrand said he supports, would increase hourly wages for short-term, long-term and FCPS retirees, as well as instructional support substitutes. Pay increases would vary between $1 and $3.

Karen Corbett Sanders, who represents the Mount Vernon district on the board, said the school system started seeing a decline in its number of substitutes before the pandemic.

The spike in pay comes as school districts across the D.C. region are struggling to fill substitute teaching vacancies. A Fairfax County Schools spokeswoman told WTOP in an email that since the 2021-22 school year began, about 26 to 29% of substitute teacher jobs go unfilled.

“We have administrators trying to fill [positions], we have people from central office trying to fill them,” Corbett Sanders said. “In many cases, we have teachers doubling up their workload to be able to provide the relief to their colleagues as they try to take a day off, either because of a sick child, or because of a personal need, perhaps even having to go to the doctors themselves.”

The changes, the school board said, are expected to go into effect Nov. 6 and will cost the school system about $3 million.

Before the pandemic, the board said the county’s substitute fill rate was 90%.

After the vote, Ricardy Anderson, the Mason district representative, said data provided to the board revealed that the county’s pay for instructional support substitutes ranked fifth in the D.C. region, behind Montgomery County in Maryland and Loudoun, Prince William and Alexandria in Virginia.

To help address the shortage, the school system said it will continue to suspend its rule that substitutes need to work a minimum 20 days per school year.

Springfield District Representative Laura Jane Cohen said the board had a responsibility to increase pay.

A breakdown of the increases is available online.

“I recognize that we were in a budget crisis, but we really slashed what we paid our subs and we saw a real drop off in their willingness to come do a really hard job for a lot less money,” Cohen said. “We’ve at least got to make sure people can put food on the table when they come to our rescue.”

The Fairfax vote came about two weeks after D.C. Council member Janeese Lewis George’s office disclosed data revealing D.C. schools is filling 68% of substitute requests this year, compared with 95% last year. And, compared to the 2019-20 school year, there are about 200 fewer substitutes available in the approved pool, Lewis George’s office said.

Last week, D.C. Schools Chancellor Lewis Ferebee said with the help of additional funding from Mayor Muriel Bowser, schools will be assigned a full-time substitute teacher. The city also announced plans to increase financial incentives for former staff members who return as substitutes to help address the shortage.

Scott Gelman

Scott Gelman is a digital editor and writer for WTOP. A South Florida native, Scott graduated from the University of Maryland in 2019. During his time in College Park, he worked for The Diamondback, the school’s student newspaper.

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