Board members added requirements to emergency substitute licenses to include an online training module and a limited number of consecutive days in one assignment

Members of the Kansas State Board of Education took action on a flurry of motions on Wednesday, all in an attempt to address the ongoing substitute teacher shortage in Kansas exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Members of the Kansas State Board of Education met in Topeka this week for their June business meeting.

On a 7-3 vote with Janet Waugh-Kansas City, Melanie Haas-Overland Park and Ben Jones-Sterling voting no, members approved modifications to the Temporary Emergency Authorized License, or TEAL, that expired on June 1.

The provisions of this program have been extended through Dec. 31, 2022, with the additional requirement that a four-hour online training module, created by Greenbush Education Service Center, be completed by those who do not meet the current emergency substitute qualifications of 60+ college credits or a bachelor’s degree. This new provision also includes that someone cannot substitute for more than 15 consecutive days “in the same assignment.”

“This is a very short-sighted solution to a much larger issue that has been increasing, even prior to the pandemic,” said Sherri Schwanz, Kansas NEA president. “We are going to hold the board to their promise of this expiring on Dec. 31 and working with all education organizations to come up with a long-term fix to this problem.”

“We need to make sure that temporary is temporary,” Ann Mah-Topeka, told the board, adding that these requirements are for emergency subs only, not long-term substitutes. “This thing has to end.”

“There is absolutely no substitute for a highly qualified, certified educator in every classroom,” Schwanz said. “We need to address the deeper issues of why our educators are leaving the profession in the first place, making our substitute crisis untenable. We can only do that when lawmakers hold teaching in the highest regard and pass laws that reflect that.”

Board members also voted 9 to 1, after a motion made by Mah, to have the Professional Standards Board and Teacher Vacancy & Supply Committee provide recommendations in October with action in December on how to address the substitute shortage on a permanent basis, something Waugh, who voted no, said should have been done sooner.

“Right now, I’m extremely concerned,” she said. “I don’t understand why this wasn’t done before. We didn’t so now we’re here.”

Waugh said she believes there are enough educators who can come together and make “some suggestions, some solutions” for permanent recommendations to “retain the quality” of education for Kansas children.

“We need to make sure we offer them nothing but quality,” she said.

Board member Deena Horst, of Salina, agreed with Waugh’s sentiments that work should have started sooner to address the substitute crisis but getting adults “with some training” in the classroom is important “even if they may not be the highest quality.” 

“We probably do not have time to do the things that would make us a whole lot more comfortable,” she said.