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Legislation would let school support staff without teaching certificates serve as subs through current school year

school classroom
Wokandapix
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Lawmakers passed a bill (H.B. 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 a high school equivalency certificate.

It is a change from current requirements. Right now substitute teachers must have an associate degree or 60 hours of college credits. In the case of technical education, they must have subject matter expertise.

Under the bill, the change would last only through June 30, 2022.

The bill's sponsor, Representative Brad Paquette (R-Niles), said the bill is necessary to address the serious strain on school systems as the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbates a long-standing shortage of substitute teachers. The shortage has been made worse during the pandemic by teacher retirements and by teachers needing to quarantine because of exposure to COVID.

Paquette said the bill seeks to reduce the shortage of substitute teachers by temporarily widening the pool. He said it is also part of his effort to inspire more people to get the necessary training to enter the teaching profession full time.

Paquette said the current requirement of 60 hours of college courses does not necessarily mean that substitutes have experience or expertise in the content they are teaching. He said many support staff are in a good position to act as substitutes because of their familiarity with a school and its students and teachers.

"The gatekeepers - the school secretary and the principal - they're not going to bring back any sort of substitute teacher that isn't good," said Paquette.

Senator Dayna Polehanki (D-Livonia) opposed the bill.

"If this bill takes effect, you would simply be playing musical chairs with school support staff," said Polehanki. "I'm talking about secretaries and paraprofessionals who would be ripped away from their essential duties and their work with special education kids. Or in the case of a secretary, they're the first point of contact with anyone who wants to enter the building."

Polehanki said a better way to address the substitute teacher shortage would be to increase their pay, using federal COVID dollars. But some school districts said raising pay hasn't solved the substitute shortage problem which is leading to teacher burnout and some temporary school closures.

The bill is on its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer's desk. Her spokesperson did not respond to a request to learn whether she plans to sign the bill into law.

The bill was 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.

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