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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