CHARLESTON, W.Va. — It got more expensive last school year in Kanawha County to cover the cost of substitute teachers and service personnel.

School system Treasurer Harry Reustle said Tuesday the final cost will be more than $5 million, which is about $300,000 more than the previous school year.

Teachers, cooks, secretaries and other service personnel missed a lot of days. Reustle said some of those were sick days while other absences were school-related.

Kanawha County School Superintendent Ron Duerring has expressed concern for the last few years about the number of days employees take off and the rising cost. Teacher unions successfully worked against a bill at the state legislature back in March that would have changed the way personal leave days are calculated for teachers.

Right now teachers are given 15 leave days when the school year begins. The bill would have changed that to have the teachers accrue the time off each month.

Treasurer Reustle said he doesn’t have a final cost for substitute workers from last school year but it’s already at more than $5 million. It was $4.6 million the year before. Reustle has budgeted $4.8 million for the coming school year.


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  • stophating

    Lost in all the anti-teacher rhetoric, is the fact that state employees and teachers had the last remaining reason not to use sick days taken away a few years back.

    A brief history lesson. Up until sometime in the early 90s, teachers had options for using their accumulated sick leave at retirement--they could trade 2 days for one month of PEIA coverage upon retirement, or they could trade 90 unused days for an extra year of credit towards retirement.

    By the mid 90s the health care benefit was reduced to 2 days for half of a months PEIA and additional retirement was no longer an option.

    By 2005 this benefit was removed.

    For public employees and teachers hired after 2008, they can't even purchase PEIA upon retirement.

    Now, on to teachers specifically---all state employees have the option of selling their unused sick days to the state. This option is not open to teachers.

    So--when people want to complain about teachers using their sick leave days--look to the reason they use them--if you were hired after 2008---saving and not using your days will get you a "Thanks for saving us money when you retire."

    Before anyone jumps in and says this date is wrong or that date is wrong---I didn't take the time to look up the exact year each benefit was removed--but the exact dates are truly irrelevant--take away a benefit and there will be consequences--increased use of sick leave is that consequence.

    • societywhoa

      Sadly, none of you would spend an hour with a collection of 24 children who live near you. This is a problem that starts at home. There are not better, more productive teachers waiting to teach Trayvon or his girlfriend to read cursive. None of you would willingly be slapped, pushed or cursed daily. Nor would you spend your evenings telling every Kardashian princess' parent that they might have to work (hard) toward their goals to achieve. All you think is that complaints will justify your negative opinions. Go to a school, volunteer, try to see your future with these kids as your neighbors- then take a day to think about it. Your absence is already being felt. Absence of maturity in adult behavior is creating a hole in children's lives and morality. One in three children are born with drugs in their bloodstream, but teacher training and professional habits are creating this crisis? Your lack of parental participation is impacting the world we all live in. Go ahead and blame the system- you will pay this price for a long time, as you enroll your grandkids in school to make up for their faulty parents. Speaking of absences, the average student misses 20 instructional days per year. So, parents seem to reinforce this concept that absence is excepted, and it impacts performance...Future job readiness kind of performance. Your children are a reflection of your choices, not those of a teacher. It isn't a pretty picture, but look at what reality holds for us. Lots of Teachers are on the battlefield, hoping to survive. You better hope they win (or at least show up for another round)!

  • Byron Kinard

    Coach K. I have just one very important question. If being a teacher is easy, with all this pay and all of the vacation times, why don't more of you wise guys just spend 4 to 6 years of your life and become a teacher. I am sure our students in WV would just love to have people teach them that just know so much. By the way I did my tour in Vietnam plus became a teacher.

    • Joe

      Ah yes the ol' "why don't you be a teacher then" comeback.

      As others have asked above, you know, the taxpayers that pay for the salaries, benefits and pensions, what is the justification of 5 million dollars of taxpayer money being spent by one county to handle absentee abuse?!

  • Michael

    My God people....Go back to work and save all your companies a pile of money!! Give it a rest and agree to disagree.

  • Joe

    As reported recently by WSAZ....note to teachers, respect works both ways.

    ´┐╝Kanawha Teachers Rally

    Teachers who didn't protest over pay raises this week say they're ready to walk out over sick days. Thursday night in Kanawha County the school board heard from a roomful of passionate teachers. The district is considering revising its current attendance policy because millions of dollars are spent every year on substitutes.

    Teachers say they deserve respect and they don't feel they're getting it. So much so, Kanawha County teachers stood in the pouring rain to let their opinions be known. They say they backed down over money...but not this.

    Sick days are a hot button issue...both for teachers and school board members. Teachers currently get fifteen sick days, but the school board says it can't afford to keep paying for those teachers who abuse that policy. School board members say they believe after teachers should be held accountable.

    Another part of the attendance policy includes an incentive for good attendance, but board member Pete Thaw says he's completely opposed to that idea. Thaw says no one should be paid for simply doing their jobs, and many of these teachers agree...they say their issue is with sick days.

    The issue is once again going back to the drawing board. The policy will go to committee and the board says it plans to review it in another month. Board member Bill Raglin says you're never going to make everyone happy and after two years of dealing with this issue it's time to make some decisions.

    Part of the proposed policy gave the district the option of refusing doctor's notes -- but tonight the board say it's in no place to question a doctor's opinion.

    One other big issue on the table Thursday night: the Kanawha County schools nepotism policy. A school board committee had proposed expanding the definition of "immediate family" to include in-laws, for example. The committee also talked about not allowing two or more members of the same family, for example a husband and wife, to work in the same school.

    In the end the district decided only to make one change to the current nepotism policy. It used to prohibit anyone from being a direct supervisor of a relative. Now you can't be the indirect supervisor of a relative.


    IF you truly want education in WV to improve you must improve the quailty of the people you are putting into classrooms and calling TEACHER. As it now stands we must accept who shows up as documented by all the non teachers as well as the lowering of standards. To do that you must have a pool of qualified teachers you can filter in order to hire the best. So YES the state will have to make teaching an attractive PROFESSION that high achieving students will want to enter. As a taxpayer I think we pay enough to do this by shifting all the money that is wasted in education.

  • Anthony

    God forbid we suggest they get merit based raises.

    There are great teachers out there, and they're on the same pay scale as the overwhelming group of horrible teachers hanging around for their pension. We need to reward good behavior, like all other jobs.

  • BigDave

    Well, there can only be one answer to this problem . . .

    Give the teachers a raise!!

    • thornton

      And a larger halo.
      They can have a very large head.

  • Hilltopsandy

    I am a teacher. I also am extremely conservative in my politics. From this point of view I will tell you that there are problems with the system. People are frustrated with public education and rightly so. That frustration manifests itself when ever there is a story concerning teachers. Teachers are like every other profession. There are good teachers, poor teachers, and everything in between. They are not all cut from the same cloth. Surely you can look back on your own educational experience and recall teachers that inspired you as well as teachers who failed you. That being said I work with a lot of really outstanding teachers. We knew what we were getting when we hired on. We have some benefits, but none of us are getting rich. The real problem with the whole system is applied Liberalism. We want our students to achieve, but at the same time we pollute our schools with Liberal ideology. As a result we have to teach in an atmosphere where students "rights" trump student learning. Real discipline is unachievable and our expectations for student behavior erode a little more each year. We are forced also to apply a liberal curriculum where advancement of political agendas (i.e. global warming, gay rights, environmentalism, etc) takes precedence over real learning. What does all of this have to do with teacher absenteeism, and teacher benefits? I think whatever benefits teachers received would be a lot easier to stomach if students were achieving. The problem is it is almost impossible to succeed under that system that has been imposed on us. You want better result from your teachers? Don't attack the teachers. Attack the system.

    • Old Line

      I have always though this to be the case. We always hear about how American students do worse on international tests than foreign students, but how many of us actually took or even saw the test that all students around the world took. Do all students have to show ability to master knowledge based around the political agenda subjects that were mentioned? I also wonder about the possibility of language bias on the test if the same test is used. We employ many recent high school graduates over the summer, and most of them are pretty good at learning and performing what we expect them to do.

  • Paige

    Teachers also have summers off- from June to Mid-August they can eat all day and take breaks.

  • Joe

    @ Stace@

    First off, their is no way a small percentage of non-"qualified" teachers as you refer to them account for the majority of the 5 million dollars of taxpayer cost due to sick leave abuse. That simply does not add up.

    Second, if you want your pay to increase in direct correlation to increased productivity, you and your fellow teachers should have no problem with performance appraisals which you all fight every step of the way.

    Lastly, you wrote, "Unlike "everyone else", they often do not get to have proper lunch breaks, they are not paid for the dozens of hours of overtime they put in every school year, and their pay does not increase when they increase their productivity. They take work home with them, night after night and spend their own money, well beyond anything they will ever ever dream of being's reimbursed for, so that they can do their jobs more effectively".

    You're right, no other state or private workers do any of these things. This, as has been indicated countless times, is a sacrifice exclusively made by teachers.

    • BigDave

      Very good response!

  • Mac

    As in ANY profession, teachers DO GET ILL! And in the education business, you are at the mercy of those "little darlings" who come to school sick because a parent(s) can't afford to miss work and care for them at home. Many teachers "tough it out in the classroom" while under the weather because of their dedication. On the other hand, just like any other working environment, professional or non, some, (very few) teachers take full advantage of each and every sick leave day every year. But that's their loss in the long run. Since the mid 1970's teachers have been allowed to accrue those sick leave days ad infinitum. Prior to that, sick leave (1.5 days per month, 15 days per 10 month teaching year) was capped at 30 to 45 days which meant that after you reached that amount you only received additional days each year to reach that cutoff point. In the mid-to-late 1970's, when the cap was removed, those of us who fortunately had good health could accrue those days ad-infinitum. Thus the "healthy and smart" educators in a thirty-year career could accrue as many as 450 sick leave days, which in retirement converted to extended health care benefits or, if you wished, converted to additional years of service (90 days=1 additional year of service) to boost your retirement. Just as in any profession, you will ALWAYS have people who will abuse sick leave days. The mentality being "those are my days, I'll use them as I wish." And believe it or not, up until the 1980's, teachers were "required" to show a Doctors excuse for their illness to be granted use of their sick-leave days! Archaic, but effective! But the majority of today's teachers (I would guess 85% to 90%) are truly dedicated, do not abuse the system, and, fortunately for them, have not encountered a major debilitating illness which could wipe out all of their accrued days. Prior to my retirement from the education system with 34 years of service, I saw some younger teachers "burning" their annual sick leave days each year. By taking advantage of those days, they not only made our profession look bad, they also placed themselves in a precarious position where in the future if they encountered a major health crisis, they risked running out of sick leave days. Unfortunately, at that point, they would lose pay for every day they were absent. A difficult and hard lesson to learn.

  • Teacher

    Thousands of teachers are needed to fill classrooms and the BEST solution anyone is coming up with is lowering standards and NON teachers. NOW the question being asked is why are "TEACHERS" absent so much? The ones I see missing are the NON teachers (castoffs from other professions).....what did your really expect? Shortcuts to teaching are NOT the answer... so why is it when MONEY is mentioned to attract a talent pool of QUALIFIED REAL teachers it is terrible. I do not hear the solution to shortages in ANY other profession to be lowering standards! But then teachers only have the responsibility of educating and the safety of CHILDREN so why attract the best....ANYONE WILL DO... that is the solution we are settling for now.

    • BigDave

      Sure, pay more to ATTRACT the better teachers. In other words, pay ONLY the better teachers.

      What you (and your union) is imply by saying you have to raise salaries to attract better teachers, is that the current ones are incompetent.

      And what do you want to do? Why, raise the salaries of the incompetent ones.


  • Old Line

    "Reustle said some of those were sick days while other absences were school-related." I would like to see a comparison between these. If he would have said most of those days were sick days, then I would be more concerned. One thing public schools can do is to cut out all of the conferences, meetings, and other events that take teachers away from the classroom and the kids. Unless these are urgent they should be done away with during instructional time. They do not help kids. They take teachers away from their students. Another thing that also hurts schools is athletic events that take place during the school day. I think the education bill passed in the spring actually dealt with this. If a coach is also a teacher, these events also take the coach away from his students.

    • stophating

      @Old Line-- So teachers should work eight hours, then drive two or three hours, sit through training for eight hours, drive two or three hours back home. Work an additional two hours... Who needs sleep.... and let me guess, you don't want to pay them for the additional time either, they should just do it because they chose to be teachers...

  • Joe

    What I would like to see is a breakdownby percentage in aggregate of how many of the absences occurred during student class days versus non-student class days that the teachers attend such as in-service, non-class days, etc. I am guessing the overwhelming percentage is sku'd toward teaching days versus the balance of contract days that do not involve class time.

    • ConservativeRealist

      It would also be interesting to see how many are in succession to or preceding other scheduled days off in order to protract "vacations"...

  • Joe

    It just never stops. How any of these "professionals" would last outside of the cocoon of the NEA or AFT is beyond me.

    Queue the "walk a mile in my shoes", I have a masters degree" and "why don't you give it a try" chorus.

    The sheer amount of missed time and expense is simply unacceptable to the taxpayers of this state.

    Accrue your time like the rest of the real world.

    • Stace

      @Joe - Obviously you have never worked in education and have no idea what you are talking about. Most educators more than earn every minute of time off they take. Unlike "everyone else", they often do not get to have proper lunch breaks, they are not paid for the dozens of hours of overtime they put in every school year, and their pay does not increase when they increase their productivity. They take work home with them, night after night and spend their own money, well beyond anything they will ever ever dream of being's reimbursed for, so that they can do their jobs more effectively. Certainly there are some out there, who might take advantage and may be "wasting the taxpayers money", but I assure you sir, they are very few and far between and it is incredibly unfair and disrespectful to imply that the profession is filled with a bunch of lazy leeches who are not worth what they are paid and do not earn their time off.

      Working in the school system, I run myself to death from the minute I step inside the school and stay after my "out time" at least an hour and often two almost every day. I am lucky if I am able to sit down for 15 minutes to eat my lunch and I could not even think about trying to make a personal phone call during my work day, unless it was an absolute emergency.

      My ex-husband goes to work later, gets off earlier, takes an hour or more off to have lunch with his colleagues, and is even afforded the opportunity to go exercise during his work day. He has so much time off and time available to conduct personal business during his work day, that he has no trouble at all scheduling doctor's appointments etc and was even able to carry on affairs with more than one woman at the same time, and never take any time away from his evenings with the family. If you wanna get mad about the way your tax dollars are spent - why don't you get on your soapbox about the way the military is spending them. I'm not saying we need to pay our soldiers actively serving overseas less money, in fact, we really should pay them more. But I think it is ridiculous how much money is wasted paying all the "support staff" here at home when half of them are getting paid to sit around wasting time and getting into trouble.

      People routinely attack teachers - act like they are a plague on our society - when they have devoted their lives to educating our children and they are fighting an uphill battle because people have stopped teaching their children to respect them. Meanwhile, we actually DO have a very serious problem within our military of people taking advantage, milking the system, and using the "buddy system" to get jobs which they are not qualified for and will not be motivated to do effectively - not to mention the fact that the standards for behavior and conduct of our "soldiers" have sunk to an all time low and the rates of suicide and divorce in the military are at an all time high.

      In either case, it doesn't do anyone any good if you change all the rules to make it harder for everyone to earn the (already limited) benefits that most of them very much deserve. We all just need to stop being so afraid of offending someone or getting sued that we are not willing to call a rotten egg a rotten egg and instead walk around pretending we don't smell the stink. We need to stop trying to be so PC and be HONEST and hold people accountable for doing what they already should be doing.

      • Dawna

        Bravo Stace!! From a retired teacher!!

      • ConservativeRealist employees in the private sector get an eight (8) week vacation in the summer? a week off at Christmas and a "spring break" along with a very liberal holiday schedule? All of that for no job related drug testing and resisting having to be nationally certified in their profession... Why don't we try and implement time clocks at school to see how much time is actually put in by teachers. My perception is that many don't show up at school until right before class starts and almost get whiplash getting off the parking lot after the last bell rings - so they can beat the buses. EARTH TO STACE: The sad song of woe is my life is a teacher is old and is not being bought by those paying your salary anymore...note your lack of support in the Legislature and how the press/media no longer leaps to your profession's defense. In the real worlld it is called, "PAY FOR PERFORMANCE"..."PRODUCTIVITY TEMPLATES" West Virginia we can't even get a guarantee that a teacher will come to work sober let alone show up for work at all...

        • Tony

          You act like educators get paid for this time off. They are paid only for the time they work. Most elect to get their pay spread out so they still get a check in the summer, but they are still not getting paid for not working.

        • Woody

          And every one of those days during the summer, and at Christmas are UNPAID days. Yes we work 200 days and get paid for 200 days. And 50% of the general population would not last a month in a school.

          • ConservativeRealist

            Hate to bust your bubble Woody but your definition of "unpaid" is a bit misleading. Under West Virginia law a teacher has the option to have their salary ammortized over the calendar year or just the school year. If it were truly "unpaid" then the benefits would stop during those periods as well.

            Further, if you want to classify those days as, "unpaid", we can then recalculate your hourly wage rate for the hours you actually work thus creating a unique situation. If we look at the average teacher salary in West Virginia according to: - it is $44,260.00 per year - your AFT figure(s) - which then, doing the math = $221.00 a day or $29.51 per hour - not too shabby for someone with a Bachelor's degree. Those with a Master's Degree earn more. I am still waiting for the justification for the abyssmal attendance rates.

        • It pays to be a teacher....

          You forgot the week off for Thanksgiving.

          • ConservativeRealist

            My'll have to forive me as there are so many holidays and built in, "vacations"... I would also be remiss if I did't mention, "snow days"...

      • BigDave

        Hurry! Someone call Stace a waaaaaaaaambulance.

        • ConservativeRealist


          • private worker

            I hear Stace's tiny violin playing "My heart bleeds"