A state education administrator will ask the Missouri Board of Education on Tuesday to implement a streamlined path to becoming a substitute teacher sooner than expected.
Paul Katnik, deputy commissioner for the quality of educators in the Department of Primary and Secondary Education, will ask that an additional path to becoming a substitute teacher begins in a few weeks rather than at the end of the year.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, and again now, substitute teachers were required to complete 60 semester-hour college credit training as part of the certification process. During the pandemic, however, the state council decided to allow 20 hours of optional online training.
Later, the 60 semester hour requirement was reinstated while the 20 hour training was revised. The board decided the shorter online training was good enough to make it a permanent option starting December 30.
But a critical shortage of substitute teachers statewide is prompting Katnik to move closer to the board. If he approves the request, it could go into effect in a few weeks, Katnik said.
“Districts are really struggling to find subs, so if the state board of education can do it faster, do it,” Katnik said.
In Columbia Public Schools, the weekly replacement satisfaction rate – the number of subscribers working versus the number of subscribers needed – has not exceeded 72% since the start of the school year. For the school week ending Friday, the rate was 63.6%, meaning there were 403 registrations needed and 256 spaces filled. The fill rate represents a range of employees, not just classroom teachers.
When there aren’t enough submarines available, classes sometimes double in size as different teachers take them. Teachers give up their preparation time to intervene. Administrators and others fill.
“We don’t have enough people signing up to be subscribers,” said Noelle Gilzow, president of the Columbia Missouri National Education Association. “People need to be aware that the shortage of submarines is critical. We need everyone on the bridge, so if anyone wants to do it, even temporarily, we really appreciate it.
Two other factors affecting the number of surrogates available are salaries and a slowdown in state-level background checks.
EDUStaff, a Michigan-based educational staffing company, has hired and supervised substitute teachers for Columbia Public Schools since 2019. Territory Director Ray Massey said the company has stepped up publicity for the recruitment.
“On top of that, we are launching a premier routine to deal with last minute absences, which are paid at a higher rate,” Massey said.
He said he was not surprised Missouri was changing its training requirements, “just because the labor shortage is tough and the classrooms are feeling it.”