As excitement builds for a return to the classroom this fall, many districts across Michigan continue to grapple with a common issue - a lack of substitute teachers.
"I've not seen the number and the need for teachers like we have right now. All subjects, all grade levels," said Craig Douglas, dean of education at Saginaw Valley State University.
He has been an educator in Mid-Michigan for decades.
Douglas said one of the main causes of the shortage is too much red tape - rules that force subs to complete 90 credit hours of college education.
"In response to a shortage of substitute teachers, the state has looked very closely at perhaps lowering that threshold down to 60," Douglas said.
The proposed legislation in Lansing would allow substitutes with an associate's degree to teach at local schools.
Carrollton Public Schools Superintendent Tim Wilson believes that could go a long way in fixing the problem.
"I think that will open up the door for a lot of other people who could apply because they'd have the 60 hours through a two-year degree," Wilson said.
Despite the many challenges substitute teachers face to get inside the classroom, there are ways schools can encourage their involvement.
"So we've taken some steps to address that. We're now hiring our own permanent subs and they primarily work four to five days a week, every week and that's helped a lot by being able to do that," Wilson said.
The legislation only applies to those who attend community college. Students who attend a university, like SVSU, will still be required to complete 90 hours before they can sub.
"On the one hand, I'd like to see more of our undergraduates have that opportunity. That would be a great experience for them. And yet on the other hand, to diminish the standards we've got to be very thoughtful on how we go about that, but we need to keep the expectations high for when that substitute teacher is employed and deployed into a classroom," Douglas said.
The average salary of a full-time sub in Michigan is about $24,000, roughly 20 percent less than the national average.
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