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Ask HR Services: Long-Term Substitutes and TRS

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Can I hire a long-term substitute under a different job title to allow them eligibility for benefits, leave, and Teacher Retirement System (TRS) membership?

For TRS purposes, a substitute is defined as a person who serves on a temporary basis in the place of a current employee and is paid at the daily rate set by the employer.  The terms “permanent substitute” and “long-term substitute” have no meaning within TRS Laws. Substitutes have the flexibility to work or not work when they choose.

An employee who has a reasonable expectation of continued work and the work is not temporary (will last more than 4.5 months) could be hired under an alternate title, making them TRS and benefit eligible.

Some districts hire full-time, non-exempt staff to work on campuses to perform uncovered duties in the classroom by using the title of floater or floating teacher. These employees are most often assigned to a single campus, though some districts may choose to deploy them to multiple sites based on need. While these employees are often used to cover classes for teachers and aide assignments, they may fill in for front office staff as well.

Some districts will use these employees for long-term assignments due to absences or vacancies; others will use them to cover the day-to-day absences on their assigned campus. If a district decides to use the floater in a long-term teacher position, they must remember parent notification requirements when an inappropriately certified or non-certified teacher is assigned to a classroom. Per the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), notification is required if assigned for four or more consecutive weeks for campuses receiving Title 1 funds. The State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) rule is to notify parents if the assignment lasts 30 or more consecutive instructional days. 

The district should be clear in its expectations of individuals serving in a floater role through a job description.  Consulting with local counsel regarding FLSA status and contract entitlement is recommended.

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Nicolle Gee-Guzman
Nicolle Gee-Guzman
HR and Compensation Consultant

Nicolle Gee-Guzman joined the HR Services team as an HR and compensation consultant in 2022. She has more than 28 years of experience working in various roles in human resources within the public sector. Most recently, Gee-Guzman was the director of human resources for a Texas public school district.

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