Judge considers substitute teachers’ benefits | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Judge considers substitute teachers’ benefits

William Ferchland

After hearing arguments from both sides Wednesday, a judge will decide whether two long-term substitute teachers are entitled to medical benefits from Lake Tahoe Unified School District.

Teachers previously tenured but dismissed because of declining enrollment and substitute teach 21 days or more in a 60-day period are paid for their daily rate on their previous full-time pay scale.

But whether that compensation includes medical benefits was the crux of the debate in El Dorado County Superior Court.

The decision could have major ramifications for the district in the costs associated with substitute teachers.

“It’s not only this district but it could (impact) all the districts in California that are in declining enrollment,” said Superintendent Jim Tarwater.

Lesley Beth Curtis lobbied to Presiding Judge Suzanne Kingsbury that such compensation for tenured-turned-substitute teachers included medical benefits. Curtis was representing South Tahoe Educators Association and two teachers, sitting next to each other in court, who sued the district over the issue.

Curtis said the dismissed teachers, in one aspect, are “tenured teachers on the rehire list.”

Curtis envisioned the argument to continue as the district fires teachers because of declining enrollment. The district has been cutting staff since the 2001-02 school year.

“So this issue is going to keep arising,” she said.

Case law and legislative history were cited by both Curtis and school district attorney Allen Vinson. Vinson said health benefits are not required by the state’s education code but must be bargained between the district and union.

Dismissed teachers who become substitutes are “reappointed, not rehired,” Vinson said.

Curtis and Vinson declined comment after the hearing.

Kingsbury paused the hearing to announce her opinion on the matter, saying the issue “breaks my heart.”

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