Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced this week that she had signed a bill allowing non-teacher staff in state public schools to act as substitutes for the remainder of this school year to help ease the strain on schools during COVID-related staff shortages.
The bill allows school staff who do not hold teaching degrees, but do have a high school diploma or equivalent, to act as substitutes when teachers are absent through the end of the 2021-22 school year.
Whitmer called the measure a “stopgap” and says it is designed to give some relief to overworked school staff who are currently under great strain covering for absences during the omicron surge. This means school secretaries, paraprofessionals and other staff can be called upon to assist when there is a teacher absence.
Opinions on the new bill have been mixed, with some, like Dr. Pamela Pugh who is the Vice president of the State Board of Education, saying the bill goes a long way toward showing teachers the state values them and will push to keep them safe and supported. Let’s provide them with safe, supportive, healthy environments.
“Let’s respect our educators. Let’s show them that we respect them. But let’s also make sure we’re doing everything that we can to make sure that we’re protecting their lives in this campaign,” Pugh told WWMT.
Critics of the plan, including the Michigan Education Association, the union supporting teachers, say the plan does not “set students or employees up for success.”
In a statement issued this week, the MEA said, “We don’t train teachers to drive busses [sic] and we don’t train bus drivers to teach math. Furthermore, this doesn’t address the real drivers behind the educator shortage — the lack of compensation and respect for the profession.”
The MEA added they look forward to working with Whitmer to recruit and retain teaching staff in Michigan schools.
ARTICLE: LAURA SPIVAK
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: KENOSHA NEWS
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