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Shortage of substitute teachers in Kansas opens door to temporary change in license rules

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TOPEKA — Dramatic shortage of substitute teachers in Kansas public schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic is prompting the Kansas State Department of Education to consider temporarily modifying license requirements for people seeking part-time work in classrooms, officials said Tuesday.

Teacher retirements, resignations and absences and the anxiety felt by potential substitutes about the coronavirus fuel a daily labor shortage in districts across the state.

The problem prompted some Kansas districts to place adults in classrooms without complying with a requirement that substitute teachers complete 60 hours of courses at an accredited college or university, said Mischel Miller, director of teacher licensure and accreditation at the state Department of Education.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures,” Miller said. “We’ve had many requests to adjust the standard for the substitute license.”

She told the state Board of Education the department was considering a plan to temporarily lift employment mandates to relieve stress on school district staffing. The state won’t suspend requirements that substitute teachers undergo fingerprint and background checks, she said.

Kaety Bowers, who was elected in November to the Blue Valley school board, said the state’s public school districts needed a lenient policy on hiring substitutes. She recommended the state Board of Education make temporary adjustments, perhaps 12 months to 18 months in duration.

“We are losing teachers faster than we can replace them,” said Bowers, who takes office in January. “We are having teachers quit at quarter, semester, in the middle of the week. We can’t fill these spots. There is learning loss going on.”

Bowers, who wouldn’t qualify to work as a substitute teacher in Kansas, said her son’s biology teacher quit last week. She said burnout was a significant concern as educators become overwhelmed amid the pandemic. An insufficient pool of substitute teachers contributes to challenges faced by full-time educators, she said.

She suggested the state board grant local school boards the option of bringing community volunteers into classrooms to alleviate the strain.

The Blue Valley school district in Overland Park responded to staffing shortages by moving middle school and high school classes to remote-only instruction from Nov. 30 to Dec. 22. Substitute teachers were to be funneled to the youngest students and to students with disabilities, officials said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

Derek Nester
Derek Nesterhttps://sunflowerstateradio.com
Derek Nester was born and raised in Blue Rapids and graduated from Valley Heights High School in 2000. He attended Cowley College in Arkansas City and Johnson County Community College in Overland Park studying Journalism & Media Communications. In 2002 Derek joined Taylor Communications, Inc. in Salina, Kansas working in digital media for 550 AM KFRM and 100.9 FM KCLY. Following that stop, he joined Dierking Communications, Inc. stations KNDY AM & FM as a board operator and fill-in sports play-by-play announcer. Starting in 2005 Derek joined the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network as a Studio Coordinator at 101 The Fox in Kansas City, a role he would serve for 15 years culminating in the Super Bowl LIV Championship game broadcast. In 2021 he moved to Audacy, formerly known as Entercom Communications, Inc. and 106.5 The Wolf and 610 Sports Radio, the new flagship stations of the Kansas City Chiefs Radio Network, the largest radio network in the NFL. Through all of this, Derek continues to serve as the Digital Media Director for Sunflower State Radio, the digital and social media operations of Dierking Communications, Inc. and the 6 radio stations it owns and operates across Kansas.

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