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N.J. Court Limits Extended Use In Hiring of Substitute Teachers

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A New Jersey appellate court has ruled that school systems in the state may not fill permanent teaching vacancies with long-term substitutes.

"We perceive no basis on which to distinguish between filling a vacancy for a full academic year and filling a vacancy for a substantial part of an academic year," a three-judge panel of the Appellate Division of the state's Superior Court said in its opinion.

"It is therefore obviously unfair to deny [the long-term substitute] the same benefits to which all of his colleagues, doing the same job, are entitled," the panel continued.

The suit, Sayreville Education Association v. Board of Education of the Borough of Sayreville, was filed by the Sayreville Education Association (sea) on behalf of three teachers in the 4,900-student school system who were hired as substitutes during the winter of 1981 to replace two teachers who had resigned and one who had retired.

As substitutes, they were paid a salary of $56 a day but were denied benefits--such as tenure credit, sick leave, paid public holidays, and membership in the state's pension fund--that are received by full-time teachers.

The three argued before the commissioner of education and the state board of education that they were improperly classified as substitute teachers, and thus improperly denied the various benefits, because they were filling permanent vacancies.

Claims Rejected

Both the board and the commissioner rejected their claims. The teachers' union appealed the case to the three-judge panel of the appellate court, which upheld the teachers' claims.

The court, which ordered the Sayreville school system to pay the teachers benefits retroactively to 1981, based its opinion on an interpretation that the state substitute-teacher law designates teachers as substitutes only when they replace teachers who intend to return to their jobs, which was not the case with the three Sayreville teachers.

Union 'Delighted'

Patricia L. Compton, president of the sea, said her union "is really delighted" with the outcome of the case.

Officials of the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, however, said they did not consider the court's ruling to be of major significance because most school systems currently provide full benefits to long-term substitutes who fill permanent vacancies.--tt

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