Amid substitute teacher shortage, House passes bill lowering requirements

Published 2:04 pm Wednesday, February 14, 2024

A few weeks ago, Rep. Timmy Truett, a McKee Republican and elementary school principal, called his assistant principal to see how things were going.

She told him that nine teachers were out, and that they had zero substitute teachers to cover their classrooms. When Truett called his school district to ask why, they said that they didn’t have any more substitute teachers in the system.

Recent teacher shortages in Kentucky haven’t been limited to full-time instructors. Across the Commonwealth, schools are facing a lack of substitute teachers, too.

The shortage leads to teachers using their planning periods to cover their colleagues’ classrooms, going to work sick and relying on less qualified aides to take over.

Wednesday, Truett’s bill reducing qualifications to become a substitute teacher got significant approval in the House, with a 88-4 vote.

What’s in the bill?

Currently, anyone who wants to substitute teach must earn 64 college credit hours. House Bill 387 would lower that requirement to zero.


Superintendents could hire anyone they deem fit to be a substitute teacher in an emergency situation.

It would allow the Educational Professional Standards Board to issue a one-year emergency certificate for substitute teaching to any applicant who has a minimum of a high school diploma or equivalency.

Applicants could get a five-year certification if they have a bachelor’s degree in any subject area from an accredited college or university.

They could get a ten-year certificate if they are a retired teacher or hold a certificate from another state.

Substitutes hired under this bill could not stand in for the same teacher over 20 consecutive days. They would be subject to the same background checks as regular employees.

‘Band aids’

Rep. Tina Bojanowski, D-Louisville, said that she normally wouldn’t approve of lowering qualification standards for the people educating Kentucky’s children.

However, the situation is dire, she said. As a teacher herself, Bojanowski spoke about situations where schools have to split up classrooms, with students from one class being divided into several others.

“Really, it’s just a lost day of learning,” Bojanowski said.

Rep. Daniel Grossberg, D-Louisville, was one of four no votes. He objected to the lack of a provision explicitly banning teenagers from being substitute teachers for other teenagers.

Superintendents would be able to prevent this possibility if they deem fit under this bill, but would not be required to do so.

Grossberg also said that he preferred a sunset provision—a defined point at which this bill would no longer be in effect—because “if we do our jobs here, we will ultimately not have a long term teacher or substitute shortage.”

Rep. Sarah Stalker, D-Louisville, urged her fellow lawmakers to pause to think how we got here, to this point of emergency.

“The reality is we are here today because we consistently and are persistent in underfunding our public education by not supporting our teachers financially with adequate pay,” she said.

“…You can’t say no to this because we are trying to put band aids on a situation that requires surgery.”