News 5 Guardians

Sep 27, 2013 12:32 AM by Eric Ross

News 5 Guardians: Millions of taxpayer dollars spent each year on substitute teachers in Colorado Springs

News 5 Investigates is looking into the millions of dollars each year being spent on substitute teachers in Colorado Springs. These are your tax dollars being spent on public education and you have the right to know where that money is going.

Bricker Elementary School teacher Tammy Anderson has yet to miss a day of class in the past two years.

"I enjoy coming in everyday just to see their smile," Anderson said. "I want the students to have success in life."

That achievement falls heavily on the teachers, which is why Anderson knows the importance of being in the classroom.

"I always tell myself that being away for a day means two days lost of instruction," she said. "We owe it to our kids to be consistent. If they show up everyday, I believe we need to show up everyday to give them that consistent opportunity for success."

As with any job, there are various reasons why teachers miss class:

*Jury duty
*Sick days
*Vacation time
*Family medical emergencies
*Maternity leave

So how much money is being spent from district to district on subs?

News 5 first requested statistics dating back two school years along with an average teacher absentee percentage rate.

Below is the data we received from each of the districts:

Harrison School District 2:
2012-2013: $790,882.14
2011-2012: $701,734.83

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: 4.8%
2011-2012: 4.2%

Current approximate student population: 10,000
Data provided by: Christine Lyle, Public Information Officer

Widefield District 3:
2012-2013: $562,691.61
2011-2012: $519,484.58

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: (N/A)
2011-2012: (N/A)
District 3 informed News 5 on September 3, 2013 that they do not have a system that calculates teacher absentee rates.

Current approximate student population: 9,300 students
Data provided by: Samantha Briggs, Director of Communications

Fountain-Fort Carson District 8:
2012-2013: $636,000
2011-2012: $604,000

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: (N/A)
2011-2012: (N/A)
District 8 informed News 5 they do not have a system that calculates teacher absentee rates.

Current approximate student population: 7,840 students
Data provided by: Joanne Vergunst, Assistant Superintendent of Business

Colorado Springs District 11:
2012-2013: $2,813,199.64
2011-2012 $2,782,774.38

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: 14.71%
2011-2012: 13.50%

Current approximate student population: 28,000
Data provided by: Devra Ashby, Public Information Officer

Colorado Springs District 12:
2012-2013: $246,212
2011-2012: $209,987


Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: (N/A)
2011-2012: (N/A)
District 12 informed News 5 they do not have a system that tracks absentee rates.

Current approximate student population:3,731
Data provided by: Natalie Morin, Director of Business Services

Academy District 20:
2012-2013: $1,580,149.00
2011-2012: $1,558,233.00

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: 5%
2011-2012: 5%

Current approximate student population: 24,100
Data obtained by: Nanette Anderson, Public Information Officer

Falcon District 49:
2012-2013: $1,142,241.58
2011-2012: $959,987.42

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: 6.55%
2011-2012: 6.75%

Current approximate student population: 15,000
Data provided by: Stephanie Wurtz, Public Information Officer

Pueblo District 70:
2012-2013: $472,685
2011-2012: $417,237

Absentee percentage rates:
2012-2013: 7%
2011-2012: 6%

Current student population: 9,226
Data provided by: Pam Smith, Administrative Assistant

Pueblo District 60:
2012-2013: $471,053
2011-2012: $461,216

Absentee percentage rates:
*District 60 did not have a percentage available for News 5. However, the district did provide the raw number of absences for the 2012-2013 school year and 2011-2012 school year.

2012-2013: 6,729 absences
2011-2012: 6,589 absences

Current approximate student population: 17,046
Data provided by: Scott Jones, Director of Public Relations

Largest substitute cost increase:
Falcon District 49 saw the steepest increase in substitute costs between the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school year. The district spent approximately $182,000 more during the 2012-2013 school year compared to the year prior.

District paying the most money for substitutes:
District 11 is the largest school district in Colorado Springs. With approximately 28,000 students, D11 spent more $5,595,974.02 on substitutes since the start of the 2011-2012 school year.

Increase in substitute costs:
The following data shows the difference in substitute expense costs for each of school districts between the 2011-2012 school year and 2012-2013 school year:

Harrison District 2:
+$89,000

Widefield District 3:
+$43,207.03

Fountain-Fort Carson District 8:
+$32,000

District 11:
+$30,425.26

District 12:
+$36,225

District 20:
+$21,916

Falcon District 49:
+$182,254.16

Since Colorado Springs District 11 is the largest school district in the City, we sat down with public information officer Devra Ashby about the millions of dollars spent each year on subs in her district alone.

"We did have two major wildfires that really did impact our staff members with both the Waldo Canyon fire and Black Forest fire that could have potentially impacted our substitute rates," Ashby said.

However, the Black Forest fire happened in June of 2013, meaning the fire would have had zero impact on the data we requested. Also, the Waldo Canyon fire ignited in June 2013---a time when teachers were already on vacation and out of the classroom.

We also asked District 11 about their unusually high absentee percentage rate compared to the other districts which provided us the same data.

Teacher absentee rates for 2012-2013:

District 20:
5%

District 49:
6.55%

District 11:
14.71%

District 11's absentee percentage rate is equivalent to missing 1 day per 6 work days. Ashby says that rate is normal.

"It seems that is a number that's pretty stable within the district between 11 and 14-percent," Ashby said.

News 5 asked, "If I (Eric Ross) am absent from the classroom 14-percent of the time, is that an acceptable absentee rate for me?"

"It really depends on the issues you are facing," Ashby replied. "If you have an illness, excused absences compared to unexcused absences, there's a number of factors that could impact that."

Factors like professional training development days can also impact teacher absences. Some of those training sessions take place outside of the classroom while others do not. It's something State Board of Education representative Paul Lundeen would like to see changed.

"Training should be done away from the core time that the service (teaching) needs to be provided," Lundeen said. "Retailers wouldn't train somebody during the middle of the Christmas rush, nor would a software company do their core training in the middle of a development rollout project."

How many days a teacher misses varies by the subject they teach and district they are in. Teachers in core classes like English or Math may have more training development days than those teaching electives.

We asked the state board whether the amount of money spent on substitutes was reasonable. However, Lundeen could not comment on those expenses because this was the first time he had been informed about the data we were asking about. As Lundeen explained, state law does not require districts to report substitute expenses and absentee rates to them. However, he did add that he'd like to see better transparency.

"There's a lot of authority or power at the local school districts," Lundeen said. "Many things aren't reported to the state and are held at the local district level. The information should be made public."

For teachers like Miss. Anderson, it's not about dollars and cents. She's focused solely on the success of her students. Missing a day in the classroom for her, simply isn't an option.

"When we are away, that structure changes and the students behavior changes," Anderson said. "For me, being away for a day means two days lost."

We reached out to all the districts in Colorado Springs through the Colorado Education Association and various public information officers. Harrison school district 2 was the only district able to fulfill our request in finding us a teacher who has yet to miss a day of school for at least two consecutive school years. The day our story was set to air, D-49 public information officer Stephanie Wurtz advised News 5 she had located teachers we could profile for having perfect attendance.

Christine Lyle, public information officer for D-2 had a second teacher who had a perfect attendance record, but because of time constraints, we were unable to profile that instructor in this story.

All districts believe teacher attendance is crucial to the learning environment. News 5 will follow up with each district in Pueblo and Colorado Springs to see whether substitute expenses increase or decrease following the 2013-2014 school year.

News 5 was unable to compare substitute expense trends prior to the 2011-2012 school year because of inaccurate data or no data being provided by certain school districts in Colorado Springs. We have attached a transparency report and more information concerning this issue in a separate web article which can be found in the "Investigates" section under the "News" tab.

If you have a news story you would like News 5 Investigates to look into, email us at investigate@koaa.com.

 

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