First, Richmond County taxpayers were dismayed to learn that 39 substitute teachers were overpaid a whopping $96,000 between 1993-96. Now they find out that even if the subs had been paid at the proper rate, it may have still been too much.
A Chronicle comparison of what various Georgia school districts pay their long-term substitute teachers (usually an assignment of at least two weeks and up) show that Richmond and Columbia counties' systems are among the most expensive.
Richmond shells out $133 to $202 a day, and sometimes more; Columbia's minimum is $126 a day. Gwinnett County, the state's largest school system, averages about $70 a day. For Fulton County it's $80; DeKalb, $75; Cobb, $76. Savannah schools in Chatham County pay between $50 to $60.
The city of Atlanta's school system pays up to $155 a day, but only after a teacher has been on assignment for 45 days. Richmond defines a long-term assignment as 21 days; Columbia, 11.
In fairness, area school officials have a point that it's difficult to find experienced, certified teachers "just sitting around the house, waiting to fill in." But why should it be that much harder here than elsewhere?
Even allowing for some regional differentials in market rates, the discrepancies still seem too high. Richmond School Superintendent Dr. Charles Larke agrees, and says he'll take a closer look at the substitute teachers' salary structure before asking the Board of Education to OK a temporary contract extension later this month.
The Columbia County school system should do the same. Even if no changes are made, taxpayers are entitled to an explanation of why it's necessary for substitutes' wages here to be among the state's highest.