Unemployment benefits for substitute teachers is a complicated area of unemployment procedure, made further complex by laws and rules that differ from state to state. In some states, such as California and Hawaii, substitute teachers can file for unemployment in the summer, while in Connecticut they cannot. There are a lot of factors governing unemployment benefits and it's well worth it to be informed about the local laws and conventions.
Substitute teachers may be called upon to fill in for a traditional teacher. Whether they will be contracted to teach in any given week depends on the needs of the schools in the area they service. There is no guarantee they'll be needed, but they need to be available--i.e., not working another job--in order to fill in when needed, often on short notice.
Because they need to be both flexible and available, substitute teachers have limited possibilities for supplemental employment. Substitute teachers are recognized by many states under the same policy as other school employees, and so are entitled to unemployment benefits under some circumstances.
While the requirements for unemployment benefits vary from state to state, in general, substitute teachers may be entitled to benefits if school is in session, the substitute teacher made herself available for work (did not turn down assignments, or did not turn down more than a certain number of assignments) or the substitute teacher worked, but did not earn a given wage.
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Summer Unemployment Benefits
While substitutes are usually not entitled to unemployment benefits during recess periods such as Christmas or spring break, summer is a different matter. During Christmas break and spring break, schools are shut down. No one is there and there is no employment to be had. However, not all schools close over the summer, and when there are open schools there are open opportunities for employment. Since some schools are in session over the summer, substitutes with a reasonable assurance of employment at those schools are entitled to unemployment over the summer months. The requirements for unemployment during the traditional school term still apply.