Substitute teacher James Bulva teaches an English classroom at Mineola...

Substitute teacher James Bulva teaches an English classroom at Mineola High School on Jan. 1, 2019. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Pay for substitute teachers is pitiful

The shortage of substitute teachers on Long Island should be no surprise [“Substitute staffing struggles,” News, Jan. 27]. I was a substitute teacher for a Nassau County district for four years and a teacher assistant at another for five years. Each year, I thought that because I had my foot in the door, I would be looked at for a full-time job. But instead, I was told I was “too valuable” as a substitute to be considered.

Your story says a full-time teacher often starts at $50,000 to $60,000 a year, and in many districts, pay approaches $100,000 within five years. However, pay for substitutes has barely changed in 14 years. The usual wage for a sub is $90 to $110 a day. If he or she is lucky enough to work all 180 days in a school year, the most a substitute can expect to earn is about $19,800 a year — without benefits. Try paying for basic needs such as rent, food and health care on $19,800 a year. Consider that a two-person household with annual gross income below $21,408 in New York qualifies for food stamps.

Name another industry in which an employee must hold a college degree, pass three certification exams and be working on a master’s degree to earn so little.

Brian Suhovsky, Oceanside

Long Island is rife with unused talent — retirees with degrees in every discipline imaginable. What do they lack? Teaching certificates. Tell me that Newton could not teach calculus, Einstein physics, DaVinci or Michelangelo art or Shakespeare English. We are not talking about full-time teachers, for whom certification requirements, mostly unnecessary, have been set by the education establishment to perpetuate itself. For short-term substitute teachers, subject mastery is the key. Consider that to teach as an adjunct in some colleges, all one needs is a postgraduate degree in the subject. Many colleges invite established practitioners to lecture.

There are many who would welcome the challenge. Students would get their lessons — and perhaps a different perspective — from people who have actually worked in the field. Why ignore the obvious solution?

Richard M. Frauenglass, Huntington

Editor’s note: The writer is an adjunct instructor at Nassau Community College.

Experts wonder why there is a shortage of substitute teachers. Per-diem subs earn about $100 a day without benefits; no vacation, no pension. This is chump change in this tight employment market.

If school districts want more qualified subs, they should consider a pool of regular subs and let them enjoy the pay scale and benefits of appointed teachers. Provide a pathway to full-time jobs as others retire.

We pay many long-term teachers on Long Island six figures, plus great benefits and pensions, but we expect subs to cover them for less than $600 a week.

Administrators are educated people; they know the solution.

Alan Newman, Bellmore

Editor’s note: The writer was a labor lawyer for the New York City public school system.

Hold a national vote to settle wall question

Instead of putting us all through the political fights among the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer about a border wall, why not conduct a good old-fashioned national vote on the subject?

Politicians have shown time and again that they are incapable of deciding [“State of the Union vow: Build barrier, boost economy,” News, Feb. 6]. They could postpone negotiations on the subject, and then we can use Election Day to vote on it. We can decide as a nation whether to build a wall, fence or other structure to protect the border. We also can stop the possibility of another government shutdown over this one issue. Let the people decide, and move on to the next problem!

William Lewis, Patchogue

Appearance counts for job seekers

As a former human resources professional, I was disappointed in a student pictured with the article “3.1% Dec. jobless rate lowest since 2000” [Business, Jan. 24].

With ripped jeans and slip-on footwear, she was not exactly dressed for success at the job fair. Frankly, if I were staffing the booth she stopped at, I’d look more at other candidates. First impressions still count.

Gary Anderson, Smithtown

Don’t use Mel and Hal as cheap props

Whether or not we’ll have six more weeks of winter, the only thing that’s guaranteed is a miserable existence for groundhogs exploited on Groundhog Day [“Foreshadowing an early spring,” News, Feb. 3].

Malverne Mel and Holtsville Hal should be allowed to be groundhogs and do what groundhogs do, which at this time of the year is sleep, not be used as cheap props. Staten Island Chuck bit Mayor Michael Bloomberg in 2009 and his stand-in, Charlotte, died in 2014, a week after being dropped by Mayor Bill de Blasio.

It’s 2019; animatronics and models can be used to avoid stressing animals. Hollywood has embraced these tools, and it’s time New York municipalities do the same.

John Di Leonardo, Malverne

Editor’s note: The writer is executive director of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature, an animal advocacy group.

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