Kids are missing school in droves—6.5 million of them last year according to the U.S. Department of Education, but they’ve got company in that regard.  According to a 2014 National Council on Teacher Quality study, teachers, on average, are absent 11 days each year, with a show-up rate of 94%.

If you do the math, that adds up to a student’s being taught by a substitute 143 days—6%–of his/her  K-12 years, in school. And that’s a lot—just about one month shy of a whole 180-day school year during those 13 years.

Meanwhile, such data seems to suggest that educators are gaming the system, enjoying countless mental health days, but a closer look tells a different, oft-untold story. For starters, many absences are out of a teacher’s control and they contribute mightily to the stats. For instance, there’s…

·         Maternity Leave

·         Military Leave

·         Jury Duty

·         Funeral Leave

·         Long-Term Illness

·         School scheduled in-service days

·         Response to Intervention (RTI) sessions

·         District workshops/professional development meetings

Plus, as NCTQ points out, that 94% show-up rate “is dragged down by the minority of teachers who are absent 18 days or more.”

Put it all together–and regardless of the very legitimate reasons behind the numbers– GateHouse Media’s analysis of the data found that substitutes in the classroom are linked with lower student achievement. Moreover, their use is on the rise, last year coming in at 14.5 days a year—188 days over the course of 13 years.

And subs are costly. That same report found that, during the 2012-13 school year, 115 districts paid them $335 million; in the 2014-15 school year, 118 districts indicated they’d spent $356 million on subs.

So, now you know…