Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill into law that would attempt to alleviate a growing shortage of teachers in the state by allowing school staff to serve as substitutes.
Michigan House Bill 4294 “will temporarily allow schools to employ an individual without certification who already works at the school to substitute teach through the end of the 2021-2022 school year,” the governor’s office said in a press release Monday announcing the signing. That includes school staff such as secretaries, office staff, teacher’s aides, library aides, and even cafeteria workers and bus drivers, as long as they have a high school diploma or GED, FOX 2 Detroit reported.
“Making sure every child in Michigan has access to a high-quality public education is my top priority, which is why this year we made the largest investment in K-12 public schools in Michigan history without raising taxes,” said Whitmer in the press release. “The pandemic has been challenging for our children, teachers, and parents, and our educators have gone above and beyond to ensure Michigan’s children have a bright future. Allowing schools to employ school staff that students know as substitute teachers will help keep school doors open and students learning in the classroom the rest of the school year. I am committed to working with the legislature to develop high-quality solutions to address these staff shortages long-term so that we can ensure that every child is able to access a quality education.”
“The pandemic has only exacerbated that shortage by further hindering school districts’ abilities to fill vacant positions and keep buildings open, placing undue stress on educators already working tirelessly every day to ensure all students in Michigan receive quality, in-person instruction,” said Executive Director of the Michigan Elementary & Middle School Principals Association Paul Liabenow. “House Bill 4294 will provide districts with additional flexibility to fill substitute teaching vacancies so students can continue to learn in a safe, supportive environment. On behalf of educational leaders throughout Michigan, we want to thank Governor Gretchen Whitmer and Representative Brad Paquette for their continued advocacy on behalf of educators and students throughout Michigan.”
Whitmer originally signed the bill into law last week. In a letter to the Michigan legislature, she acknowledged the bill was a “temporary stopgap” but a necessary step to keep children in the classroom. “Everything we have learned from the past year and a half demonstrates that our kids need to be in school, in person, every day,” Whitmer wrote.
Michigan is one of a number of states facing critical staff shortages, as previously reported by the Daily Wire:
Schools in five states have canceled classes because of short-staffing, with many schools across the U.S. canceling classes on Friday, extending Veterans Day to a four-day weekend, according to Fox News. Schools in some areas have already reverted to remote learning temporarily while they cope with the shortages. School Boards attributed the shortages to fatigue felt by teachers and students because of the return to in-person learning after the COVID-19 pandemic forced remote instruction…
Data from Education Week, cited by Fox News, showed that 25% of school officials consider their staffing situation “severe,” with another 15% who consider them “very severe.” Another 18% said their shortages were either “mild” or “very mild.” Just 5% said they did not have a staffing issue.
One school district in Maryland is short 161 teachers and more than 100 aides. The teachers that remain are skipping lunch breaks to cover classes, all the while dealing with loss of learning and mental health issues due to school lockdowns.
Many schools are also seeing shortages of janitors, cafeteria staff, and bus drivers.