SHIAWASSEE COUNTY, Mich. (WLNS) — Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a bill this week to address the substitute teacher shortage in Michigan.
The bill will temporarily let paraprofessionals substitute teach students K-12.
A paraprofessional can be a bus driver, classroom aide or even a secretary.
Governor Whitmer says it will allow schools to keep their doors open and let students continue learning in classrooms until the end of the school year. However, the legislation is facing mixed reviews from education professionals within the local community.
“We are all stretched very thin with all of our workforce resources right now,” said Lori Haven, Superintendent at Perry Public Schools in Shiawassee County.
Haven told 6 News the bill was well-organized, however, she feels like in the long run, there could be many obstacles.
“I definitely think there would be some hurdles and challenges,” Haven, said, “Substitute teachers, bus drivers, and lunch aides have different responsibilities at different parts of the school day.”
“We don’t expect teachers to drive 45-foot school buses, so why should we expect bus drivers to teach in classrooms,” said Thomas Morgan, Spokesman, Michigan Education Association (MEA.)
Morgan believes this legislation counts as a stop-gap measure that does not address the substitute teacher shortage. He said bus drivers and secretaries have different skillsets than full-time teachers.
“Elected officials need to step up to the plate and ensure that teachers and other school employees are paid a good wage,” Morgan said, “And are treated with respect otherwise the shortage will only get worse.”
Governor Whitmer issued a press release in which she spoke highly of House Bill 4294.
“I am committed to working with the legislature to develop high-quality solutions to address these staff shortages long-term so that we can ensure that every child is able to access a quality education,” Whitmer said.
Classrooms have been overwhelmed with COVID-19 cases ever since the beginning of the year.
Whitmer hopes expanding the base of people who can fill in for teachers will keep kids in school during the pandemic.