Teacher Must Pay Substitute

Via e-mail, I got this bizarre story from the Detroit Free Press: Michigan teacher must cover cost of substitute while on military duty

A Michigan school district told a teacher activated for military duty that he must cover the cost of a substitute during part of his absence and give the district some of his military pay.


Barry Bernhardt, a middle school science teacher and a National Guard reservist for at least a decade, started serving two weeks of active duty in Italy on Monday, the day of the school board meeting.

During the 10 days Bernhardt will be gone from the classroom, he will use two personal days and two compensation days during his time off.

For the remaining six days, Bernhardt must pay the district $74 per day for the substitute teacher filling in for him and turn over the $78 in salary that he will receive each day from the National Guard, The Grand Rapids Press reported.

Since this is a blatant violation of federal law, Bernhardt is almost certainly in a union, and schools hire subs routinely, I’m rather dubious of the story. It wouldn’t surprise me if the school didn’t pay him while he was away but the penalties are clearly illegal. And substitutes tend to make paltry wages compared to regular teachers, so the idea Bernhardt would have to pay would be strange even if he weren’t called to active duty.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Well, the article really IS in the paper.
    (If URLs are not allowed, accept My apologies and delete the comment.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    I’ve got a link to the story in the post itself. I’m questioning the accuracy of the reporting, not whether it was in the paper.

  3. vince says:

    Barry Bernhardt is my brother.
    He’s just a guy in the reserves trying to do the right thing without causing his family much grief. He isn’t complaining about the deal he got with Gillette.
    Gillette now says he has done a bad job of communicating the full deal to his people. I think if he had a good relationship with his people it never would have become an issue. Here in Texas it would never have happened like it did.
    So now when Barry comes back to work, how do we think Gillette will respond? I suspect his communication might be still be a problem, but I sure bet his message will get through to Barry Bernhardt.

  4. vince says:

    I still don’t read these, but I’d like to try to clarify all the mess about this, sort of clean it up and put it to rest. Barry caught all this and was upset that people thought he was making money on the deal (he isn’t) based on the superintendent’s rendering of the numbers.
    This is what he posted on a site where they were ticked off at him about making money.
    This is Barry, presently serving with my friends and shipmates in Sicily. As far as all this attention concerning my pay, the district is helping me out on this active duty period so I don’t have to leave my family with E5 pay for the 2 weeks. Some of the details are very confusing. The district is helping out for only 6 of 10 working days. The other four of the ten are personal and comp days I have already earned and are considered vacation. That pay from school is already mine and shouldn’t be mentioned in any assistance calculations. Weekends in the military are considered work days, they are not as a teacher. By the way, I can work at a fast food place on weekends and accept their benefit package and it is no business of the districts. They wouldn’t claim any rights on that money, I hope. If all the numbers are crunched I have to pay for the sub for 6 days, that was the deal that Mr. G offered me and instead of a full leave of absence (0 help) I took it. There is no preplanned deal involving me and Mr. G beyond what the district letter states that I’m am aware of. When I went to Aviano in 1997, the district did a similar deal, took my military base pay for the days they were going to compensate me (one for one)but I didn’t have to pay the sub that time. I also got to keep the housing because it was not considered pay but allowance. Probably, much like a person that receives an allowance for an automobile or mileage like many senior executives. I’m pretty dizzy with all the figures being thrown out there. My normal bi- weekly teacher pay is 2505, not 3484 or what ever is being printed. The truth is I am grateful to the people of Kenowa Hills for their support in any way during this time of military duty. Its a great district full of awesome kids and parents, we are just having a hard time with contract negotiations. As for this new deal, I’ll be returning home soon and I’m sure that I’ll get to see the new deal just like all of the world has.
    Barry Bernhardt
    PS. I’m a proud navy reservist and science teacher. I’m definitely not an English teacher so cut me some slack on the quality of this document.