Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer bucked teachers unions earlier this month and signed into law an expansion of substitute teacher eligibility as schools across the state grapple with staffing shortages.
HB 4294 permits any school employee, including bus drivers and cafeteria workers, to work as substitute teachers provided the individual has a high school diploma or equivalent. Previously, Michigan substitute teachers needed at least an associates degree or 60 hours of college credit.
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The measure, which proved to be a rare moment of bipartisanship between the Republican-controlled state legislature and the Democrat governor, is aimed at addressing teacher staffing shortages in the state’s schools.
The bill passed the legislature largely on party lines, the Associated Press reported. Meanwhile, Whitmer said the measure was necessary as a “temporary stopgap” to keep schools in the state open.
“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,” Whitmer said in a statement.
Supporters of the new law include school administrators, who say the new rules will allow for greater flexibility as schools struggle to keep their doors open amid a nationwide surge of coronavirus cases and the emergence of the omicron variant.
But the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, opposed the legislation despite the group’s endorsement of Whitmer’s 2022 bid for reelection.
“If elected officials are serious about solving this shortage, they need to work to raise educators’ pay and treat them like the professionals they are," said MEA spokesman Thomas Morgan. "Anything else is at best a stopgap solution to a massive problem.”
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The Michigan chapter of the American Federation of Teachers did not respond to the Washington Examiner’s request for comment.