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Is Your Substitute Teacher Entitled to a Permanent Position?


April 12th, 2021

As the school year winds down, we remind school officials of Revised School Code Section 1236 and how it affects a substitute teacher’s rights to continued em­ployment, compensation, and fringe benefits. The Michigan Court of Appeals has interpreted “substitute teacher” to mean, for purposes of Section 1236, a teacher who serves in place of a regular teacher. Nota­bly, this interpretation does not apply to a substitute teacher retained through a third-party contractor.

Under Section 1236, a substitute teacher employed for at least 150 days of a 180-day school year must, after all other teachers are reemployed, be given the first op­portunity (either during that school year or the imme­diately succeeding school year) to accept a contract for any position for which the substitute teacher is certi­fied. The same right of first refusal applies to a substi­tute teacher employed for at least 180 days in an ISD that operates a program for 220 days. This right of first refusal does not, however, apply to a substitute teacher who fulfills the duties of a “teacher who is unable to teach due to a terminal illness.”

Section 1236 defines a “day” as “the working day of the regular, full-time teacher for whom the substitute teacher substitutes.” A quarter-day, half-day, or other daily fraction of the substitute’s service must be counted as the fraction worked unless the school acknowledges a fraction of a day and pays it as a full day, in which case the time counts as a full day.

The right of first refusal for an open position does not require that the substitute serve in the same posi­tion assigned. If, however, a substitute teacher assigned to one specific teaching position completes 60 days in that assignment, the substitute is entitled to a salary of not less than the minimum salary on the school’s cur­rent schedule for the assignment’s duration. The substi­tute teacher also is entitled to leave time and “other privileges.” While not defined by statute, an informal Attorney General opinion suggests that “other privi­leges” are benefits granted in a collective bargaining agreement to regularly employed teachers.

Be sure to monitor the number of days that each school-employed substitute teacher works. Failing to do so could significantly limit the school’s discretion over hiring and salary decisions.