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Missouri State Board of Education approves substitute certification change

Posted at 6:40 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-19 19:40:41-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Missouri is speeding up the process to become a certified substitute teacher due to a severe shortage.

The State Board of Education on Tuesday approved an emergency amendment that will lower the number of hours required to become a substitute and will go into effect Nov. 1.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education requested the temporary change of hours in 2020 due to a severe substitute teacher shortage. That change would allow a substitute certification after 20 hours of DESE-approved online coursework rather than 60 semester hours of college-level credit from a DESE-recognized and regionally accredited academic degree granting institution.

The change in hours was set to go into effect at the end of 2021. However, DESE requested an emergency change to make it effective Nov. 1 due to a severe shortage of substitutes, which was approved by the Board of Education Tuesday.

Jason Roberts, president of the Kansas City Federation of Teachers, said he doesn't agree with the amount of hours changed for certification but agrees something needs to be done to get more substitutes.

"We are feeling the shortage and what makes it different now than in the past is quarantine," Roberts said.

Roberts said the pandemic makes the need for substitute teachers even greater.

"Having teachers in quarantine or isolation because they have tested positive creates a vacancy for 10 days that would not have been there," Roberts said. "You might have two or three staff members in a given building."

Roberts said he worries lowering the amount of hours to 20 will de-value education.

"We are required to have bachelors degrees, many have masters and doctorates, so when we say well just anybody off the street can walk into a classroom and do this job we are beginning to de-value education within the realm of education," Roberts said.

Kyle Palmer, executive director of human resources at the Center School District, said he doesn't think lowering required hours de-values education.

"I trust DESE to do a really good job with that, and I think it'll be very personalized and focused to the demands of substitute teaching," Palmer said.

According to a news release Tuesday, the online training covers topics such as professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, foundational classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs, and working with at-risk youth.

Palmer said the district's substitute pool is at an all time low, and he believes the change will help take the burden off full-time teachers who often lose their prep time to cover another classroom.

"It's been a struggle and it's been tough to try meet all the needs of what we're trying to do during the pandemic," Palmer said.

Roberts said he believes another way to get more substitute teachers in the mix would be for the state to lift the maximum number of hours that retirees can work in a classroom without it affecting their retirement.

"We certainly need them and those are people that are fully certified, have been fully certified, many of them have lifetime certifications, those are the best people to put in our classrooms if they are willing to come but they get backed into a corner," Roberts said.

The Secretary of State still needs to give approval on changing the hour-change to go into effect in November.