Lawmakers 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 the current requirements. Currently, substitute teachers must have an associate’s degree or 60 hours of college credit. In the case of technical education, they must have subject matter expertise.
Under the bill, the change would only last until June 30, 2022.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Brad Paquette (R-Niles), said the bill is needed to address severe pressure on school systems as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates a long-running shortage date of substitute teachers. The shortage was compounded during the pandemic by the retirements of teachers and by teachers needing to be quarantined due to their exposure to COVID.
Paquette said the bill aims to reduce the shortage of substitute teachers by temporarily expanding the pool. He said it was also part of his efforts to inspire more people to get the training they need to enter the teaching profession full-time.
Paquette said the current 60-hour college course requirement does not necessarily mean that the locums have experience or expertise in the content they teach. He said many support staff are in a good position to act as back-ups because of their familiarity with a school, its students and teachers.
“The guards – the school secretary and the principal – they’re not going to bring back some kind of substitute teacher that isn’t good,” Paquette said.
Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) opposed the bill.
“If this bill goes into effect, you would just be playing musical chairs with school support staff,” Polehanki said. “I’m talking about secretaries and paraprofessionals who would be torn away from their core duties and from their work with special education children. Or in the case of a secretary, they are the first point of contact with anyone who wants to get into the business. 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 said the increase in wages had not solved the problem of a shortage of substitutes which is leading to teacher burnout and some temporary school closures.
Bill is en route to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office. Her spokesperson did not respond to a request as to whether she was considering signing the bill.
The bill was passed largely along party lines. The bill faces opposition from 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.