Bills tackle state’s substitute teacher shortage


PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan school districts are finding it difficult to find people to fill in for teachers in the face of a substitute shortage, but the goal of three bills in the state legislature is to change that.

Bills working their way through the state legislature would ease some requirements for substitute teachers, something school administrators say is needed as the pool of qualified applicants shrinks.

“I think every district in the state could talk about the shortage of substitute teachers that happens and certainly no different here in Portage,” Brad Galin, the director of human resources for Portage Public Schools, said.

Galin said his district needs between 35 and 45 substitutes each day.

“While today every classroom is full with a teacher or a substitute teacher, both Monday and Tuesday of this week, for example, we had three classes throughout the district on each day that we did not have subs for,” he said.

Portage isn’t alone. At Otsego Public Schools, Superintendent Jeff Haase has had to fill in for teachers when no substitutes were available.

“Teaching is such an important job,” Haase said. “And the academic growth of our kids is important, and so we want to make sure we have the right people in front of our kids.”

Now the legislature is getting involved. Two bills aimed at making more substitutes available have passed the House of Representatives and were heard in a Senate committee Tuesday.

One would allow districts to hire retired teachers without negatively affecting their retirement benefits.

“We hope that passes, because those would be great people to bring back to our district, our retired teachers that know the procedures and know the routines and that still want to work part-time,” Haase said.

The other bill would bring in licensed or certified professionals and allow them to teach in a subject related to their license or certification.

>>Online: House Bills 4421 and 4422

A third bill still in the House, HB 4069, would reduce the number of college hours a substitute teacher must have completed from 90 to 60.

“I think anything we can do to get more substitutes into the pool, make them available, is a good thing,” Galin said.

The pay for substitute teachers varies. Right now, many districts offer bonuses and other incentives for substitutes who work more often.