Missouri: Education Legislation Aimed At Increasing The Number Of Substitute Teachers

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The Missouri Senate is reaching the last fiscal hearing on House bill 2304 which intends to make it simpler to be a substitute teacher in the state.

Currently under Missouri’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the prerequisite to acquire a Content Substitute (K-12) Certification is 60 credit hours from a recognized institution or college. HB 2304 would lower the requirement to 36 credit hours, or by completing a 20-hour online course.

“I attempted to open the door as broad as as, to get as many individuals qualified to be replacements,” Rep. Ed Lewis (R-Moberly), a former Moberly High School teacher, said.

Lewis is the sponsor for the measure and submitted it back in January.

Individuals must also have evidence a high school diploma or the equivalent, and pass a background check before being licensed. The bill provides a fingerprint background check opportunity which would enable for substitutes to submit their check results to five different school districts. Currently, subs have to undergo background checks for each particular districts.

“If somebody wanted to work at a few other schools, maybe I reside between Westran and Moberly. Why perform two distinct background checks when one would suffice?” Lewis stated.

The measure also would compel DESE to conduct a training session to substitute teachers going over topics pertaining to substitute teaching. Missouri school districts will have the opportunity to establish district customized orientations for their subs.

Through DESE, there is currently a 20-hour training program for persons without prior college background. The program is via Frontline Education and now cost $180 to enrol.

“We’ve been trying to find out different methods to get substitute teachers certified so they can be in the classroom with children,” Todd Fuller, spokesman for the Missouri State Teacher Association, said on the bill.

Lewis said when there is a paucity of subs and a low fill rate for a district, it leads to other staff members acting as subs.

“If you have someone having to cover someone else’s class during their prep time or maybe they are having to spilt a class… It simply makes the learning process that more harder,” Lewis added.

Another feature of the law is lifting the hour limits for retired teachers working now as substitutes. Currently, retired teachers working as subs may work a cumulative total of 550 hours without effect retirement allowance.

“I know a lot of retired teachers who would be willing to come back to a district if required and would be prepared to be either a constant substitute for a building or a consistent replacement for the entire district,” Fuller said.

He said that the hold-up for many retired teachers is not being able to be a full-time substitute without possibly losing the pensions they get.

The measure has to be authorized at a fiscal hearing by the Senate before coming to the Senate floor for a vote. The bill includes fresh modifications made by Senate and must move back to the House for approval before eventually arriving on Gov. Mike Parson’s desk.

“It’s simply basic sense. We need replacement teachers,” Lewis said.