As education woes and wage problems continue to plague much of the nation, many Florida districts are adopting a questionable new policy: dropping their staff of full-time teachers in exchange for full-time substitutes. This policy, which has certified teachers struggling to make ends meet on salaries of less than $20,000 per year, has raised questions about wage laws throughout the state.
Districts in Florida are realizing that paying full-time certified substitutes is significantly cheaper than paying benefits for a full-time employed teacher. Whereas a teacher generally draws about $35,000 with $11,000 worth of paid benefits, a full-time sub is paid just $100 per day without health care benefits required.
Furthermore, teachers in many regions, including Marion County, are relegated to “first-year” status even if they have taught in the past; their “first year” in Marion County puts them back at the bottom of the pay scale. Experts in the region say the population is losing a large quantity of good teachers because of the poor employment practices.
Even more disturbing is the fact that it is thus far legal to hire equally qualified teachers for half the traditional pay, effectively lowering the value of the position. Many in the community question whether the use of full-time substitutes is even legal under local code. The Marion Education Association (MEA) argues that the practice is, in fact, against the law, and the group has filed an unfair labor complaint against the state.
The complaint alleges that the substitutes should be considered employees, not independent contractors, because of the nature of their work. This distinction is important because independent contractors can file a complaint with the Department of Labor, while public employees are prohibited from doing so.
If you think that you are being unfairly classified as an independent contractor and are thus receiving fewer benefits, consider seeking the help of a qualified employment attorney. These professionals can help you learn more about your rights at work and in the courtroom.
www.ocala.com, “The savings and potential legal questions of full-time substitutes” Joe Callahan, Jun. 22, 2013