As Kansas desperately seeks to fill gaps in education staff amid Omicron’s spread, 18-year-old high school graduates can qualify as substitute teachers
At least one US state is having such a hard time finding enough teachers to keep classrooms open that it will hire teenagers who were themselves high school students less than a year ago as substitute educators.
The Kansas State Board of Education on Wednesday approved a declaration of emergency, temporarily relaxing the minimum credentials school districts must require for substitute teachers. The new rules only require that a candidate be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma, pass a background check, and complete an application.
During the remainder of the current school year, applicants will no longer be required to have completed at least 60 credit hours of accredited college courses – the equivalent of four semesters of full-time coursework – to be permitted to substitute. Randy Watson, the state’s education commissioner, reportedly told council members he knew of at least four districts that are on the verge of closing their schools due to a shortage of teachers.
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Public schools in Derby, a district in southeastern Kansas, immediately began using the easing of credentials as a recruiting tool, touting Wednesday’s board vote on Twitter. “Having consistent and reliable surrogates is essential to deliver exceptional educational experiences to our students” the district tweeted. “Even signing up for just two days a month makes a huge difference in our schools. “
NEW – The Kansas State Board of Education has temporarily reduced the requirements for alternative licensure by adopting an emergency declaration to help with the shortage of substitute teachers. Read more details in the answers below … pic.twitter.com/P2PGwfeFOQ
– Derby Public Schools (@DerbySchoolsKS) January 12, 2022
But Melanie Haas, a member of the Council of State, would have called the measure “last resort,” saying that some teachers are angry with lowering standards because it makes them feel “Very devalued”.
Many American school districts were suffering from a teacher shortage even before the Omicron variant spiked Covid-19 infections to an all-time high. The surge in new cases has led to crippling staff disruptions, such as those that have led to the cancellation of thousands of U.S. airline flights in recent weeks. With more and more teachers being sidelined, substitutes are increasingly in demand.
States and school districts across the country have adopted various measures to help fill the void. In Virginia, for example, schools are hiring more and more students to teach. Elsewhere, some districts have increased wages to attract more substitutes, while others have urged parents to help fill the void.
The Northside Independent School District in San Antonio this week told CBS News local affiliate KENS-TV that substitutes are currently teaching about 60% of its classes, and that could alleviate its normal requirement that substitute teachers have at least 90 hours of university credits.