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State Board of Education adopts policy to stem substitute teacher shortage

By: - January 12, 2022 4:29 pm
Randy Watson, commissioner of education in Kansas, said the policy requiring temporary substitute teachers to have complete 60 credit hours of college courses would be suspended until June 1 to help districts respond to a shortage of substitute teachers. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

Randy Watson, commissioner of education in Kansas, said the policy requiring temporary substitute teachers to have complete 60 credit hours of college courses would be suspended until June 1 to help districts respond to a shortage of substitute teachers. (Noah Taborda/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — The Kansas State Board of Education unanimously agreed Wednesday to suspend until June a requirement that licenses for substitute teachers be limited to applicants who completed 60 credit hours of college courses.

The emergency declaration was inspired by the shortage of substitute teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary policy is expected to alleviate staffing pressure on schools.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has stretched our teacher ranks thin, and there simply aren’t enough licensed individuals to fill substitute roles when our educators are sick or otherwise have to be out of the classroom,” said Randy Watson, commissioner of education in Kansas. “This is far from an ideal or perfect solution. We have to offer relief to Kansas teachers and schools.”

The idea was endorsed by the Kansas National Education Association, United School Administrators of Kansas and the Kansas Association of School Boards.

“As we continue to look to medical experts for guidance, keeping students in classrooms with highly qualified educators is our priority,” said Kevin Riemann, executive director for KNEA. “We support this temporary, but necessary, step because it gives school staff time to recover from illness without putting additional and unsustainable pressure on an already thin workforce.”

“With a shrinking pool of substitutes and the growing number of teachers out with COVID and other seasonal illnesses, this is an option we can support if it keeps our schools open,” said G.A. Buie, executive director of USA-Kansas.

The board policy and related emergency licenses would expire June 1. Applicants would again have to meet the minimum requirement of 60 hours of courses at an accredited college or university.

In the meantime, temporary substitute licenses would be available to people at least 18 years of age with a high school diploma. They also must have a verified employment commitment from a school district, pass a background check and consent to be fingerprinted.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.

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