Classrooms could soon feel a pinch as a result of the Affordable Care Act, requires employers to cover health insurance costs for anybody who works more than 30 hours a week.
That includes many substitute teachers.
School board officials in Maury County say budgets are tight, and there is never enough money to go around. So, when it comes to offering healthcare for substitute teachers, they say they don't have the money.
"Currently, we offer insurance to our full-time teachers. Substitutes, we do not," said Tommy Dudley, vice-chairman of the Maury County School Board.
Under the Affordable Care Act, any employee that works 30 hours or more becomes eligible for healthcare coverage from his or her employer in companies with 50 employees or more.
"So, therefore, we have no choice but to cut hours," Dudley said.
Maury County will limit substitute teachers to a 28-hour work week to avoid having to provide health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. They currently have 286 substitute teachers, and last month 103 of them worked more than 30 hours a week.
"We can either hire more, which may be a problem, or we will end up having to hire a pool of employees and work them full-time and assign them to a substitute pool and have to pay insurance for them," Dudley said.
But cutting hours and adding more teachers, Dudley says, will hurt the students.
"Students struggle enough having one substitute teacher, but then now we're going to have to possibly split the substitute time between two substitute teachers. It just makes it tough on the students to learn," he said.
It's not just a problem for Maury County, but for school districts across the state.
Wilson County is working to review staffing hours for its teachers.
And schools in Clarksville and Rutherford County get substitutes through a contractor who they say will manage hours for them, to comply with the Affordable Care Act.
Metro Nashville Public Schools says its healthcare coverage is in compliance.
Some school districts like Williamson County said they are still doing their research on the new laws and they don't know if their substitute teachers will be affected yet.
But they do know they don't have much time. If districts decide not to offer insurance, they will face a penalty. In Maury County, it would come in the form of a $1.5 million fine.
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