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Louisiana schools scramble for substitutes

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE — Louisiana public school superintendents are scrambling for substitute teachers or offer costly health insurance to part-time workers because of the Affordable Care Act.

Patricia Pujol, superintendent of the Ascension Parish school system, tells The Advocate ACA has forced officials in her parish to turn the hunt for substitute teachers to a staffing agency to track hours and avoid federal penalties.

Michael Faulk, superintendent of the Central school system, said his district is trying to find new substitutes and he plans to push for legislation next year to increase their ranks.

The Lincoln Parish school district in northeast Louisiana has trimmed weekly hours for 400 substitute teachers and other part-time workers to 28 — two below the cutoff number — and boosted the minimum wage by $2 per hour, to $10.50, because of the federal health insurance law. The change applies to 400 substitute teachers, maintenance workers, food service employees and paraprofessionals, George Murphy, business manager for the district, said in an email response to questions.

The uproar in education circles, as well as other industries nationwide, stems from a part of the law that requires employers to offer health insurance coverage to part-time workers who are employed 30 hours or more per week, or face federal fines of up to $2,000 per person.

Superintendents said such coverage is a huge expense for school districts still reeling from five years of a near freeze in state aid for public schools.

“Given the cost of benefits, that would be an unbelievable drain on school systems,” Pujol said.

Finding top-flight substitute teachers is an age-old problem, and they are generally paid about $60 or $80 per day, depending on whether they have a college degree.

Pujol said her district opted to turn the issue over to Kelly Services, a staffing agency that has systems in place that track hours worked by temporary teachers.

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