Watch: Gov. Wolf signs bill to support teacher staffing in schools

Western PA News

HARRISBURG — With schools across the country struggling to staff teachers and substitutes, Governor Tom Wolf signed House Bill 412 on Friday to help.

The bill amends the act of March 10, 1949 (P.L.30, No. 14), known as the Public School Code of 1949, to relax certain standards to hire teachers.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have learned how critical in-classroom education is for our K-12 students,” said Gov. Wolf. “I am proud to sign this legislation which allows schools the short-term flexibility to ensure children can safely learn in-person where we know is best for them and their futures. I look forward to continuing to work with members of the General Assembly to address these key issues longer term.”

The signed laws will expand the number of individuals eligible to substitute in public schools and will provide schools with the flexibility they need to continue providing safe, structured learning environments for K-12 students.

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Flexibilities for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 include:

  • Retired teachers are now eligible to fill teacher vacancies on an emergency or short-term basis.
  • Schools can use eligible college students and recent graduates of education programs to serve as substitute teachers.
  • Educators with active Pennsylvania certificates and those with comparable out-of-state certificates can serve as day-to-day substitutes for 20 days, or longer under certain circumstances.
  • Teachers with inactive certificates may substitute for 180 days instead of 90 days per school year.
  • Individuals who are 25 or older, have at least 60 college credits or 3 years of experience as a paraprofessional, and complete training on classroom management, may serve as “classroom monitors” by delivering preplanned assignments for a teacher.

“There is a serious substitute teacher shortage in Pennsylvania, and this new law will begin to solve it by expanding the pool of eligible individuals who can fill these important positions,” said PSEA President Rich Askey. “For months, PSEA members have been stressed to the breaking point because of the shortage of substitute teachers… PSEA members’ top priority is ensuring that all students receive the best possible education. This law will help students, educators, and support professionals do that essential work.”

Askey added school districts in the commonwealth should apply for funds through the American Rescue Plan to raise daily pay for substitutes and provide a fair wage. Locally, school districts like Erie and Millcreek have already raised their payment rates in an effort to convince substitutes to get back in area classrooms.

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