From S.F. Gate by Jill Tucker:
When a San Francisco teacher calls in sick, there’s no guarantee a substitute will be available to cover the classroom.

In September, there were 1,618 teacher sick calls, but only 1,325 substitute shifts to cover their classrooms. In other words, when a teacher calls in sick, there’s a 20 percent chance this school year that a principal will have to scramble to find someone — a counselor, librarian, another teacher or the principal herself — to lead the class full of kids.

Add in teacher absences for personal leave or training, and it means 550 instances when classrooms couldn’t find a substitute in September. That’s the equivalent of 14,000 students who didn’t get the education their parents might expect.

Teachers who scheduled their absences for training or for personal leave were more likely to find a substitute to fill in, but still the district lacked a substitute in about 1 in 10 of those classrooms. Data for October weren’t available.

The substitute shortage hitting schools this year probably stems from increased teacher training days — related to the new Common Core standards — and is creating a greater demand for subs. In addition, an improved economy is probably increasing the employment options for those in the district’s pool of qualified substitutes.

They are expected to work 36 days each school year — or just 20 percent of the 180 days — to remain on the list as an active substitute.

Under the teacher labor contract, substitutes can turn down job offers when they get a phone call to fill in at a school. And they “may accept an assignment and then change their plans at the last moment without any consequence,” district spokeswoman Gentle Blythe said.

“SFUSD is committed to ensuring that each classroom is staffed by an effective teacher and, when that teacher is absent, SFUSD has a pool of substitutes that meet the requirements for substitute teaching,” Blythe said. “However, there are days when not every classroom gets filled.”

The number of subs “has not been adequate this year,” Blythe said.

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