Some concerned by lowered requirements for Kansas substitutes

Published: Jan. 13, 2022 at 6:56 PM CST
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WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) - The Kansas Board of Education took emergency action on Wednesday to keep schools open by easing the requirements for substitute teachers in Kansas. But some are concerned by the lowered qualifications.

The state BOE passed the Temporary Emergency Authorized License, or TEAL, on Wednesday to provide temporary relief to Kansas schools. Board members said they were forced to take extreme steps to make sure buildings stay open.

“There are some school districts that need 70, 80 substitutes that can find no one,” said Kansas School Board Member Betty Arnold.

Some schools are nearing a breaking point, and teachers are overwhelmed.

“Our educators have been made to take double classes, give up their planning time, which is the time that they prepare as professionals for their classes,” said Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) President Sherri Schwanz.

TEAL broadens the qualifications for who can be hired to fill temporary substitute roles. Minimum requirements for the TEAL include a high school diploma, the applicant must be 18 years old, have an employment contract with the district, complete a background check and submit applications to the Department of Education. TEAL expires June 1.

“Our substitutes have to be educators who are certified, and then emergency subs. There weren’t even emergency subs who have to have 60 hours of college credit. These are reservists,” said Schwanz.

Arnold said TEAL doesn’t allow school districts to just bring people in off the streets, but it gives them more leeway in their hiring authority.

“Hiring processes would be in place, we’re going to look at this individual, make sure this individual is qualified,” Arnold said.

Some people have said the state needs to look at the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, KPERS, as a way to relieve the substitute teacher shortage.

KPERS requires a waiting period of 60 to 180 days after someone retires before they can begin working again and still pull from their pension.

Those who could step in and fill the gap may not be able to do so without violating that waiting period which would result in penalties.

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