(The Center Square) – A bill introduced in Lansing aims to make it easier for Michigan schools to hire substitute teachers.
Rep. Brad Paquette, R-Niles, introduced House Bill 4038, which aims to allow a district employee to substitute teach under certain conditions, without having 60 college credits.
Currently, a substitute teacher needs 60 college credits and state certification.
“We have a deep shortage of substitute teachers,” Paquette told The Center Square in a phone interview.
Paquette used to be a traveling Spanish teacher and struggled to find someone to substitute teach for him. However, he knew many people who were professionals and spoke Spanish but weren’t eligible to substitute.
“When the pool isn’t very wide, you have to accept the bottom of the barrel,” Paquette said.
With Democrats holding a political trifecta, Paquette hopes for bipartisan support to push the bill through each chamber and to the desk of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The bill was referred to the Committee on Education.
Whitmer signed a bill sponsored by Paquette in 2021 that allowed a school district to employ an individual without a certificate or permit who did not otherwise meet the requirements of a substitute teacher through June 30, 2022.
Paquette is working with the Department of Education to allow exceptions to the 60-college credit requirement.
Under the bill language, the substitute teacher would have to have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate. Eligibility to teach grades 9-12 would require the substitute to be at least 21 years old and be enrolled in and supervised through participation in a department-approved educator preparation program.
“We’re realizing that the substitute teaching, to offer wisdom and to be involved in the classroom, it really comes down to having a reputation in the district, having a reputation with the kids, and really just doing your best,” Paquette said. “And that’s something that I think a lot of people have to offer, with or without 60 college credits.”
Martin Ackley, director of the Michigan Department of Education’s office of public and governmental affairs, said in an email that the agency “is in support of the concept in the bill and we are working with the sponsor’s office to make some adjustments to the bill’s language.”