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It's unfortunate the State Board of Education on Tuesday permanently relaxed substitute teacher requirements.

It's a decision made out of desperation rather than one aimed at excellence in education.

Let's be clear: Relaxing requirements to become a substitute teacher isn't designed to ensure kids have great teachers in classrooms. It's designed to make sure they have teachers in classrooms.

As we recently reported, instead of completing 60 college credit hours, individuals with a high school diploma or equivalent will be able to complete 20 hours of state-approved substitute teacher online training to be eligible for a substitute certificate.

The amendment will go into effect Dec. 30, but the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hopes to have potential substitutes to complete the needed training in the fall and be ready to start soon after Dec. 30.

The training includes topics of "professionalism, honoring diversity, engaging students, foundational classroom management techniques, basic instructional strategies, supporting students with special needs and working with at-risk youth," according to DESE.

Last year, the public overwhelmingly rejected the idea of permanently relaxing the requirements. The board received 41 comments in favor of the proposed amendment and 243 comments against it. But DESE went against that consensus, saying it had collected data showing the "positive impact" the relaxed rules have had in addressing substitute teacher shortages.

The problem of finding good substitute teachers existed before the pandemic and was much worse during the pandemic. Part of the reason is retired teachers chose not to substitute out of concerns for their health.

The state Board of Education's decision will help to get substitute teachers in classrooms. The alternative could be principals calling on teachers in the building to cover for absent teachers. That could result in teachers doing little more than monitoring classrooms rather than teaching. In extreme situations, the decision could prevent schools from going to virtual learning because they simply don't have enough teachers to teach in person.

But it's not an ideal decision, and it's not going to produce students who are better prepared for college or the real world.

Rather than lower standards, perhaps districts need to offer pay that will attract quality substitute teachers. Why is it competitive pay is often the solution when hiring coaches to produce winners on the field, yet we lower our standards for teachers?

News Tribune

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