Parents who just months ago had their role in education publicly questioned are now being implored to enter classrooms to combat staffing shortages.
“I knew when COVID hit, they started to make some exceptions for subs and I thought, ‘Oh my gosh. I’m going to do it. I’m just going to try and see if I like it,'” said Kristin Kuhlman, a California mom of two who is currently serving as a long-term substitute teacher in Encinitas, California.
Kuhlman earned her degree in business but said she comes from a family of educators, so when it became clear that COVID-19 was leading to teacher and substitute shortages, she signed up to fill-in.
“I think it’s a huge solution,” she said, “It’s really a gift that you’re giving these kids, especially in the elementary years. They need to be in school. I can see my class struggling. I mean, I came in, and I was surprised with some things they should have been able to do that they can’t do.”
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School districts and elected leaders across the country are urging other parents across the country to follow suit in an effort to keep schools open. Parents in the Lake Washington School District in Washington State have already heeded the call. The Hays Consolidated School District in Texas also reached out to parents in January through a social media post, asking them to sign on as guest teachers.
Parents interested in softening the stress of teachers, or those who are simply focused on keeping their child’s school open and functioning have been able to assume teaching roles thanks to relaxed requirements implemented by individual states.
On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a temporary executive order that allows school districts to issue 30-day emergency substitute credentials. This provides for a process that is more expedited than what Kuhlman completed before taking on her new role. A substitute applicant in California is no longer required to obtain a traditional credential, but must have an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university and must pass a criminal background check.
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Washington, Texas, and Pennsylvania are among the many states that have implemented similar emergency credentials. In Pennsylvania, individuals who are 25 or older are able to serve in the classroom if they have at least 60 college credits or 3 years of experience as a paraprofessional. Texas will accept guest teachers who have a minimum of 30 college credits or received an honorable military discharge from full-time active duty service.
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To alleviate a plaguing shortage of teaching staff, the Kansas Department of Education took easing of restrictions a step further by approving an emergency order this week that removes the requirement for college credits. Under the policy that is set to expire in June, high school graduates over the age of 18 are eligible to serve as substitute teachers so long as they can pass a background check.