Substitute teachers and the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to offer health insurance to 95 percent of employees who work more than 30 hours per week. In some districts, that may include substitute teachers, who may teach from eight to 35 hours per week.
“Substitute teachers are right on the margin between full-time and part-time,” says Geoffrey Smith, director of STEDI, the substitute teaching institute based at Utah State University. “Districts traditionally haven’t offered health care for substitutes, but that may change for some of them.”
“One of the projected outcomes of these decisions is that districts will now be forced to hire more substitute teachers to fill the need at a time when hiring highly qualified subs is already a challenge.”
In most budget-strapped school districts, adding health benefits for substitute teachers is not an option.
To comply with ACA and “mitigate the need to pay insurance to subs, districts need to guarantee that subs aren’t working more than 30 hours a week at any point across a school year,” says Christine Carmichael, director of the public sector practice group at Kronos. “Federal legislation also determined that subs couldn’t be deemed seasonal employees, since school years are typically only 180 days.”
For instance, in the Jefferson County School District in Alabama, reining in substitutes’ hours is “the only solution for us,” says Sheila Jones, CFO of Jefferson County Board of Education. “Historically, substitutes have not been eligible for state health insurance, and in our state, they are not changing the eligibility rules. So our only option is to manage those working hours for substitutes.”
Jefferson County was already deploying Kronos as a workforce management tool to help manage reporting for the human resources department, and the automated tool’s ability to track and cap substitute teachers’ hours has been an added benefit, Jones says.
Tools like Kronos are being employed across the country by district leaders to “emphatically report substitute hours, and districts are implementing strict policies that limit the number of hours per week their subs can work,” Carmichael says. “One of the projected outcomes of these decisions is that districts will now be forced to hire more substitute teachers to fill the need at a time when hiring highly qualified subs is already a challenge.”