Cutting Substitutes Pay For an Alleged Substitute Teacher Shortage?

As of July 1, 2015, approximately 1,000 substitute teachers with the School District of Philadelphia (SDP) were no longer employed by the SDP due to a contract breach with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) union and the outsourcing of substitute teachers to Camden, NJ based Source4Teachers. The PFT filed a Charge of Unfair Labor Practices on June 19, 2015, but no further details have been provided. This isn’t a unique situation to public schools. In fact, it is becoming a national trend; the status quo in the ongoing corporatization assault on public education, teachers and unions.

The SDP claims that a low job fulfillment rate of 55 to 65 percent with substitute teachers as union member employees of the SDP is the catalyst in the outsourcing. Source4Teachers claims it will provide an incredible 90 percent fulfillment rate by 2016 per their $34 million dollar two-year contract. However, their plan on how to do this also has not been disclosed. The contract also has not been made public. Transparency is apparently not a priority.

As a now former SDP substitute teacher, I question why more research was not done to figure out why the fulfillment rates were so low. SDP used the AESOP system developed by the Media, PA based company Frontline Technologies, to assign substitute teachers jobs. Appointed teachers enter their absence into the AESOP system either by phone or online. Those jobs then appear available for subs by their selected regional area, most often closest to their homes, as well as by their area of certification. However, it seemed that not all corresponding jobs would show up all the time.

For example, I could log on to AESOP on both my computer and my iPhone simultaneously. Each provided two different sets of available positions, with very little to no overlap. If I refreshed the computer screen, I would see a change in a few jobs, but still no match to the iPhone. If I logged off of the computer, then logged back on, I would see no available jobs just minutes later, but still see a plethora of open jobs on my iPhone including regions outside of my assigned region and sometimes positions outside of my areas of certification. If I refreshed the screen again, I would see all the previous jobs that had once disappeared. I could also use the same computer with two different web browsers and be provided different sets of open jobs. Often times, one of my areas of certification would never show up. I called the SDP a few times and was told it was a glitch that was being worked on. Glitch? Or blatant sabotage of the system in order to further the agenda of corporate education reformers to outsource? I suspect the latter.

Interestingly, Source4Teachers also uses AESOP. Will they encounter the same issues? Or will these issues miraculously be fixed? As a side note, Kelly Educational Services also uses AESOP. I’ve also worked for them and encountered no such issue. Their jobs appeared the same on all devices at all times I was logged into the system.

If inconsistent job availability isn’t enough to get you to stand in solidarity with substitute teachers and the children of Philadelphia, then how about the roughly 43 percent pay cut they will endure from the $160.10 per day once paid to certified teachers by the SDP to a mere $90 per day by Source4Teachers. Of course, the rate is set by the school district so this indicates that Source4Teachers is taking a large percentage of that pay out of the teachers’ pockets. Will highly qualified, certified and experienced teachers rush to SDP schools to teach for roughly $12 per hour?

I suspect that part of Source4Teachers overall plan includes hiring uncertified teachers. They recently posted a job search for the SDP specifically on indeed.com. The ad states, “If you are not a Pennsylvania certified teacher, you are still eligible to become a substitute if you have your bachelor’s degree. Your Source4Teachers recruiter will help you secure an emergency permit which will qualify you to substitute for one year. You will also be qualified to work as a special education substitute teacher at the non-certified pay rate.” Special education teachers work with a very specific group of students who have been identified with special academic, emotional and behavioral needs. They are educated and certified to specialize with these students, and yet, Source4Teachers is making a mockery of them.

This leaves the SDP with uncertified, unqualified teachers teaching the children of Philadelphia. It also leaves highly qualified and experienced teachers underpaid. It forces a division in the union and among teachers and the communities they serve. All part of the corporate education reformers’ plans to privatize the public school system and further oppress disenfranchised citizens.

In order to effectively serve the children of Philadelphia, I call for the SDP, PFT and who ever else has a little bit of power left, to investigate such practices mentioned above. I also call for the PFT to give us updates on the Charge of Unfair Labor Practices filed on June 19, 2015. Additionally, I demand that we, the public tax payers of Philadelphia, be given complete details of the Source4Teachers contract along with a detailed plan of how they expect to fulfill 90 percent of the jobs.

If you care about Philadelphia’s children, then you’ll join me in this call for action.