Executive Director’s Blog: The need for certified subs in classrooms

Knowing that many of you continue to be concerned about quality education in Michigan, I wanted to draw your attention to a study done recently by Bridge Magazine, a respected publication which follows education policy issues.  The study, titled “No Substitute,” suggests the state could reduce its reliance on long-term, uncertified substitutes and says a majority of the public supports that move.

The study also mentions that the public supports a change in state law so that retired teachers can substitute teach without diminished retirement benefits.

It’s a fact that many Michigan school districts rely on uncertified, long-term substitute teachers to fill classroom vacancies. MARSP supports the recruitment of well-trained substitutes, along with pay and benefits that attract more full-time teachers to schools in the first place.

MARSP knows that to provide the best education possible, teachers should know the science of education and best teaching practices. Last August, a Bridge Magazine article noted that uncertified substitute teachers were being used long-term in more than 2,500 classrooms across the state.

Certified teachers have a bachelor’s degree with student teaching experience, which is not required of long-term substitutes.  Last year we reported in VANGUARD that the average substitute teacher hired from EduStaff – the state’s largest provider of subs – was a 44-year-old working mother who was not state-certified.

Many would-be substitute teachers have found better-paying jobs in other industries. Also, state law has made it more costly for schools to hire retired teachers as substitutes.

Adding to the teacher shortage issue is the decrease in students pursuing education degrees.  Where young people frequently sought out teaching as a career, there are fewer graduates now.  Our state needs to encourage young people to see teaching as a chance to make a difference and also to keep teacher salaries and benefits competitive with other industries.  Those who do graduate with teaching degrees are much more likely to get full-time teaching jobs right of college rather than substitute part-time.

Two years ago, MARSP and its members helped fight back a stated plan to weaken teacher pension and health care benefits.  Teachers are the life-blood of our public education system.  While it can be difficult to recruit and retain certified teachers, it’s essential for our students and the success of our next generation.

To read the Bridge article, “No substitute,” click here.

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