Substitute teacher shortages were common in Michigan prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but now the situation has become critical in many districts.

To address it, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed a bill that her administration says will help keep schools open and learning in person.

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House Bill 4294 temporarily allows school staff members like drivers, cafeteria workers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, and others to work as substitute teachers until the end of the current school year. To be eligible, a person must work for the school and have a high school diploma or high school equivalency certificate.

Prior to HB 4294, the requirements to substitute teach were an associate degree, 60 college credits, or technical subject matter expertise.

Gov. Whitmer said in a release,

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. 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.

House Bill 4294 was sponsored by republican Rep. Brad Paquette of Niles. Supporters of the bill have argued that the need for substitute teachers is so great that lower standards need to be implemented to fill open positions. Those in opposition to the bill argued that that by lowering standards, the quality of education could suffer.

In the same release, other recently passed legislation to address workforce shortages were announced.

    • House Bill 4787 waives the knowledge test required for a commercial driver license for an individual with military motor vehicle experience, honoring the skills developed during military service and helping to address the truck driver shortage.
    • Senate Bill 759 amends the Public Health Code to allow qualified individuals authorized to practice a health profession in another state to practice in Michigan during an epidemic under certain circumstances, bolstering Michigan's access to mobile medical professionals to help weather the COVID-19 pandemic.

See How School Cafeteria Meals Have Changed Over the Past 100 Years

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