Letter: $11 per hour to sub at a Utah school? Executive orders won’t solve teacher shortage. But higher pay might.

Recently I was informed by my employer that, because of an executive order signed by Gov. Spencer Cox on Jan. 31, I could take up to sixteen hours of personal leave to work as a substitute teacher in one of Utah’s public schools.

Curious, I decided to examine substitute teacher pay where I live, in Utah County. What I discovered was alarming. Most, if not all of the districts have contracted with Kelly Employment Services to hire substitutes. While pay varies slightly between districts for a full-day’s work, I would likely be compensated about $80 for my time.

If I arrived at 7 a.m. and left at 3p.m. (with one-half hour for lunch), I would receive well under $11 per hour. According to the employer review site Glassdoor, I could obtain an entry-level fast food job at Wendy’s at the same pay rate. This is unconscionable.

Gov. Cox wants us to believe that we are in a temporary, pandemic-induced crisis that requires the mobilization of educated state workers to fill employment gaps to keep our students learning. This is wrongheaded. The pandemic has simply exposed the fact that Utah does not pay educators anything near their worth. Further, we should not let individual districts hide behind employment agencies such as Kelly Services. Regardless of whether a district pays an employee directly or through a service provider, more money on the table still results in higher pay. And, by the way, Utah has a $614 million budget surplus this year! The shortage of qualified educators in Utah is real. Executive orders will not solve it. Higher pay just might.