Ohio lawmakers are considering a proposal that would extend the waiver of the requirement that a substitute teacher have a degree for four years. The change was initially necessary when the challenges of the pandemic created a desperate need for substitute teachers that has not abated.
Even the Ohio Education Association acknowledges that extending the waiver may be necessary, although it and the Ohio Federation of Teachers are not fans of the idea. They call this measure a band-aid and underline the need for more help for full-time teachers.
“We ask a lot of teachers,” OAS President Scott DiMauro told WOSU in Columbus. “Public schools do such critical work, not just academic learning, but the socio-emotional needs of children and serve as hubs in communities. We need a lot more help in the form of nurses and counsellors.
This is true, and legislators need to take this into account because they avoid perpetually extending a solution without addressing the root problem. But in the meantime, there’s a lot to learn from the previous two years of reduced requirements for substitute teachers.
“They’re doing a really good job,” Centerburg Local Schools Superintendent Mike Hebenthal told the radio station. “Really into it and I really like kids. Honestly, if you looked at them and you looked at someone who graduated, I don’t think you would be able to tell the difference.
In other words, there’s more to being a teacher than being handed a piece of paper that says you graduated with a four-year degree. Certainly, proper education and training are important for those who have chosen education as a career, but it is not the only thing that helps them play an important role in the education of our children.
With the pool of retired educators or other willing replacements with four-year degrees showing no signs of growing anytime soon, it seems like a trade-off is in order. The concerns of education professionals and gaps in school district coverage need to be balanced in a way that meets the educational needs of our children, rather than adapting to a potentially outdated status quo.