As a former Philadelphia teacher, I can tell you it is not fun to be mandated to cover a class of students you do not know, for a curriculum you do not teach, when you expected to be able to prepare for your next class or get some grading done so you wouldn't be up late into the night.
The company hired to fill these vacancies - Source4Teachers - guaranteed that on the first day of school they would have a 75% fill right, increasing to 90% by January. Unfortunately, their rate has yet to break 35%. Because of that, news sources like The Public School Notebook have been calling for their contract to be canceled and the old system to be put back into place.
On November 19, Superintendent Hite explained in an email why the situation cannot be changed so haphazardly:
"Canceling the contract does not generate any savings: S4T is only paid for the substitute positions it fills."
"It would take months to recreate the previous system, which had considerable shortcomings."
"Despite having many dedicated substitutes, close to 70 percent of the pool was unavailable on any given day. Available substitutes frequently turned down jobs in certain schools and neighborhoods."
"For example, under the old system, substitutes could sign up for jobs on expected snow days and still be paid when school was canceled... one middle school, for instance, had a 100 percent fill rate for snow days this past March; its overall fill rate for the month was 8 percent."
I can only hope that the leadership of Philadelphia schools can learn from this and put back the old system while working with teachers and community members to figure out how to make substitute teachers' jobs easier in those situations so that schools can get what they need without having to pay and arm and a leg to get it.