Kansas: Substitute Teacher Eligibility Broadened In Face Of “Worst Educator Shortage”

In the wake of “an educator shortage that may be the worst we have ever seen” in Kansas, the qualifications for substitute teaching will continue to be dropped for a second semester in a row. This decision was made in response to the current situation in Kansas. The emergency substitute teacher license will be temporarily expanded by the Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday, 7-3.

Emergency substitute teacher license holders are often required to have a bachelor’s degree or evidence of having completed at least 60 college credit hours. As a result of the resolution adopted by the board on Wednesday, graduates of high schools are now eligible for the position, provided that they pass fingerprint and background checks. To be eligible for the program, recent high school graduates must be sponsored by a local school system and finish an online training program that teaches them different teaching styles and approaches. In addition, substitute instructors with a high school diploma or GED will be restricted from working in any one job for more than 15 days in a row.

There was a severe shortage of substitute teachers in Kansas during the first half of the school year, which necessitated passage of the Temporary Emergency Authorized License (TEAL).

These two choices have been among the most divisive made by the board since before the outbreak, with teacher unions like the Kansas chapter of the National Education Association fighting to keep replacement requirements as high as possible.

KNEA president Sherri Schwanz noted that although the teachers’ union had supported the decision to introduce the Temporary Emergency Authorized License, the organization had done so on the premise that it was in response to COVID-19 staffing difficulties and would only endure for the spring 2022 semester.

It surprised KNEA, even though it wasn’t in name, that the education department wanted to expand the program. It has been stated by state authorities that KNEA was given a chance to give actual feedback on the extension, but KNEA’s president says that’s not true.

There is no substitute-teaching qualification for those with just a high school degree, even with four hours of online video instruction, according to the director of the Kansas State Board of Education.

“The harm is that our children, and that they won’t receive the best education they can,” Schwanz said.

Many Kansans have expressed their fear that, although allowing more individuals to substitute teach might open the door for some, it could also reduce the quality of the classroom, particularly if recent high school graduates are returning to teach in the schools they formerly sat in.

A majority of school districts who employed Temporary Emergency Authorized License substitutes this spring stated the program was a wonderful success, according to Kansas State Department of Education director of teacher licensing and accreditation, Mischel Miller.

Only one individual under the age of 21 was granted a license during the spring season; the majority of recipients were over the age of 21. The youngest person to be granted a license was 18 years old. According to Miller, since licenses may only be awarded to individuals who have been sponsored by a school district, these districts have served as a filter to weed out those who may be untrained or unsuited.

Other than extending eligibility to high school graduates, the board heard but did not act on a proposal to make teaching more accessible to recently retired teachers.

According to Miller, it is estimated that more than 1,000 Kansas educators who have just retired will be able to utilize the license renewal option.

It is possible that this plan, which might be brought back to the board for approval in July, would make it easier for teachers who retired within the last five years to reapply for and earn their license.

There is an alternative that would eliminate certain renewal requirements for existing instructors, including professional development and continuing education. Fingerprinting and background checks, on the other hand, would be necessary for all instructors, including those who have previously passed these procedures.

They were keen to look into that alternative, and several of the board members questioned how to speed up the return of recent retirees to the classrooms.

Concerned about the biggest teacher shortage Kansas has ever seen, education authorities turned to Watson, who urged that the state’s board of education begin looking at long-term remedies.

Kansas State University and Fort Hays University, he noted, have reported their largest-ever enrollments of students in their teacher preparation programs, indicating some potential for the long run.

These newly graduated teachers won’t be in the classroom for many more years. Therefore, a more immediate and long-term solution is required.

The state board of education has agreed to meet with the teacher supply and professional standards committees of the education department in order to create options for consideration by the board in December as a result of this decision.

Deena Horst, R-Salina, a board member, said the board needs to do all it can, even if it means making difficult choices.

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