Legislators passed a bill (HB 4294) Tuesday that would temporarily allow a school district to hire its own support staff as substitute teachers, as long as they have a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate.
This is a change from current requirements. Currently, substitute teachers must have an associate degree or 60 hours of college credit. In the case of technical education, they must have expertise in the field.
According to the bill, the change would only last until June 30, 2022.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles), said the bill was needed to address the severe strain on school systems as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates a long-running shortage. date of substitute teachers. The shortage has been compounded during the pandemic by teacher retirements and by teachers who have had to self-quarantine due to exposure to COVID.
Paquette said the bill aims to alleviate the shortage of substitute teachers by temporarily expanding the pool. He said it was also part of his efforts to get more people to take the training needed to enter the teaching profession full-time.
Paquette said the current 60-hour college course requirement doesn’t necessarily mean replacements have experience or expertise in the content they teach. He said many support staff are well placed to act as substitutes because of their familiarity with a school, its students and teachers.
“The guardians – the school secretary and the principal – will not bring back any substitute teachers who are not good,” Paquette said.
Sen. Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) opposed the bill.
“If this bill goes into effect, you’ll just be playing musical chairs with the school support staff,” Polehanki said. “I’m talking about secretaries and paraprofessionals who would be ripped away from their core duties and work with children in special education. Or in the case of a secretary, they are the first point of contact with anyone who wants to enter the building. “
Polehanki said a better way to address the shortage of substitute teachers would be to increase their salaries, using federal COVID dollars. But some school districts have said the salary increase has not solved the problem of a shortage of substitute teachers that is leading to teacher burnout and some temporary school closures.
Bill is on his way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s office. Her spokesperson did not respond to a request whether she planned to sign the bill.
The bill passed largely along party lines. The bill is opposed by the Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals and the Michigan Education Association. It is supported by the Michigan Association of School Boards and the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators.