It’s a practice that goes on in various parts of the country: when a teacher is absent, they have to pay for the substitute. In North Carolina, a new law has taken effect for those days when a teacher needs to use their leave. It used to be that $50 (about half the cost) of a substitute would be deducted from their pay. Now, it seems that the reason for the absence will be reviewed and if it does not satisfy the administrator, the full cost of the substitute will be deducted.

Surely the legislators who enacted this new law had the best interests of teachers in mind. Ha, ha, haw! This is North Carolina, a Florida wannabee. No, to a certain mindset, a punitive measure will stop these teachers from taking off for all sorts of ridiculous situations, like a funeral, closing on a mortgage and a new house, and other life events that don’t conveniently schedule themselves for summer break.

“Teachers were taking sick days to do personal type items, to attend the funeral or sign paperwork. Really that’s not the purpose of a sick day,” NC House Rep. Jeffrey Elmore said.

–WGHP, Fox News 8, in the Piedmont, North Carolina

Mr. Elmore is apparently unaware that teachers bargain leave for both sick days and personal days. In Grumpy Old Teacher’s (GOT) district, we get 10 days of leave of which we may use 6 of those days for personal reasons. In addition, in the case of the death of a close relative (spouse, parent, child, sibling), we get two additional days of bereavement leave.

Lest Mr. Elmore think that teachers will abuse this, let it be known that teachers have to provide proof upon their submission of the leave form: an obituary, funeral service program, death certificate, etc.

But the new North Carolina law brings up an old law, a law as old as human civilization itself, the Law of Unintended Consequences.

Consider:

  • Taking sick days for personal reasons: In other words, teachers need to lie on their leave forms. Instead of saying they were attending Grandma’s funeral, they have to say they had a 24-hour stomach virus. GOT is not saying teachers are devoid of moral character, but is taking note that the law sets up an incentive to lie.
  • If no sub was hired for the day, teachers will be refunded the amount: In other words, teachers should wait until the very last moment to put in a sub request. If they know they will be out a week ahead of time, the job is likely to be filled and they’re out $85 to $120 depending on their district’s pay schedule for subs. If they wait until the morning of the absence and put in a sub request about 7 AM, the chances of the job being filled are zilch and the teacher pays nothing. The end result? Few jobs being filled for the day and we know how disruptive that is to a school.
  • School districts find the law’s language vague: In other words, no one knows what to do. Some places will be okay; in others, it is an opportunity ripe for abuse as ultimately, it is principals who will make the decision. Hope you have a good one, teachers, one whose identity is that ‘I have your back’ rather than those whose administration philosophy is that of Yertle the Turtle.

This isn’t going to end well. But maybe that’s what Mr. Elmore and his legislative buddies intend. And THAT! is a pun intended.

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