Missouri could reduce the required college credit hours to become a K-12 substitute teacher. To help alleviate a sub shortage, State Representative Ed Lewis is proposing to require 36 college credit hours instead of the current 60. Lewis, R-Moberly, has been a teacher for more than 30 years.

(photo courtesy; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

“Anyone in the teaching profession knows that one of the most difficult things to do is to get a substitute when you’re going to be gone,” he said. “It sometimes is just easier just to be there even though you need to be gone somewhere else. My wife was taking care of my dying father-in-law yesterday and couldn’t get a substitute.”

During a House education committee hearing today, he says his bill would also make permanent a 20-hour online training course option for substitute teacher candidates.

Mike Harris, with the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), said the state Board of Education plans to consider next month whether to make permanent the online training course alternative for subs. Last year, the board temporarily approved the option to help with a substitute teacher shortage during the pandemic.

Representative Justin Hill, R-Lake St. Louis, signed up to be a sub during the pandemic. One of the requirements is to pass a background check. For each Missouri public school district you sub in, a $50 background check is required by each one.

“And so now at this point now it’s cost-prohibitive,” said Hill. “What you really need to do is get DESE to sign off on that background check and have the districts accept DESE’s background check. That, in itself, will give you so many more substitute teachers.”

Representative Paula Brown, D-Hazelwood, asked Lewis to put an age requirement in the bill. She is a retired teacher from the St. Louis area.

“We could have a 19-year-old supervising an 18-year-old,” she said. “Not to be flippant, but my worry is all they would come away from with that experience is a date.”

Lewis said he has added a 20-year age minimum for all potential substitutes.

The committee has not yet voted on the bill. The legislation is House Bill 608.

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