Autauga Co. substitute teacher shortage linked to Obamacare

Autauga Co. substitute teacher shortage linked to Obamacare

AUTAUGA CO., AL (WSFA) - Rarely a day goes by that Prattville Kindergarten School teacher Tammy Horton isn't teaching, but like most people there are times when she can't make it to work and that calls for a substitute teacher.

"When that does happen we try really hard to find someone good and qualified to come in to cover our classes," says Horton.

Yet since January, there has been a shortage of subs in Autauga County, which leaders say is a first for the school system. The shortage means students may be disbursed and placed in another class for the day or teachers take turns during their planning period to teach another class.

Teachers say this can be a disruption to a child's education.

"What we may have covered yesterday in our class, that child may not have done that," Horton said.

Scarlett Rowe teaches advanced English at Prattville Junior High School.

"For the kids, it's not a good situation because you have one come in, and then another come in and say okay where are you? We are just making the best out of a poor situation," Rowe said.

Superintendent Spence Agee says the shortage is due to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

The law requires large employers to provide insurance for employees working more than 30 hours a week. Due to the requirement, the schools have had to cut back on substitutes' hours, only allowing them to work three days a week instead of the previous possible five.

"It's sad for those ladies who are now just sitting at home because they aren't doing it for the money. I can't tell you how many of them have said when I'm at the Junior High, I have a purpose. It's important to give people a purpose," Rowe said.

"Many of our substitutes are military spouses or retired teachers who have insurance, and they're saying we'll sign anything, just give me a piece of paper to sign that I don't want insurance. We have substitute teachers that want and depend on this money. So it's hurting substitutes," Agee said. "I hate it. I hate for the teachers who are being pulled in so many directions. I hate it for the children who get disbursed to other classrooms."

Agee says it all boils down to the bottom line. Failing to comply could cost the district $2 million in fines, but paying for insurance for substitute teachers isn't possible as it would tack on up to $10,000 per person.

"You're talking about it would break Autauga County," Agee said. "We just wouldn't have any money to operate, we couldn't turn the lights on."

Agee says there are some options they are currently looking at, including finding more substitute teachers, searching for an exception in the requirement or using an outsourcing agency.

"We are actually looking at numbers now, they are doing a cost analysis for me," Agee said. "We're going to do the very best we can to provide the best educational experience."

Montgomery Public Schools tells us leaders have the same issues as Autauga County but have not reached a critical stage yet when it comes to subs. Leaders will be looking at options over the summer.

Elmore County officials say they watch the 30-hour requirement closely as well to keep it from being an issue.

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