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Oregon is changing its substitute teacher license rules to combat an 'extraordinary shortage'

The license would only allow individuals to work for the district that sponsored them and would only be valid for the remainder of the school year, or six months, whichever is later.

Posted: Oct 12, 2021 4:51 PM
Updated: Oct 12, 2021 4:51 PM

By Mallory Simon and Christina Maxouris, CNN

(CNN) -- Hoping to help curb what officials are calling an "extraordinary shortage" of substitute teachers across the state, the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission announced a new rule temporarily dropping the bachelor's degree requirement to become licensed in some cases.

The temporary rule, which is set to expire March 31, allows substitute teacher applicants without a bachelor's degree to be sponsored by a school district, which would also provide them with enhanced support and administrative supervision, according to a joint statement from Dr. Anthony Rosilez, the commission's executive director, and Erika Bare, the commission chair.

The license would only allow individuals to work for the district that sponsored them and would only be valid for the remainder of the school year, or six months, whichever is later.

"This rule maintains the responsibility of districts to ensure that the adults caring for the students in the classroom have the skills and dispositions necessary to be a temporary substitute teacher who can keep students safe and learning," Rosilez and Bare said in their statement.

The state has seen a massive decline in substitute teachers in less than two years: In December 2019, there were 8,290 licensed substitute teachers across Oregon. By September 18, 2021, the number was nearly slashed in half, down to 4,738 licensed substitutes. Without more teachers, classes will be "combined to unacceptable levels or not offered at all, inflicting irreparable harm on schoolchildren," the temporary administrative order says.

"While the data we have at this point is primarily anecdotal, the COVID pandemic has been a primary factor in the reduced supply," Rosilez and Bare said.

Elizabeth Thiel, president of the Portland Association of Teachers, which also represents substitute educators, said what Oregon is experiencing is a "staffing crisis" exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic for several reasons.

Some long-time substitute teachers, with little work for them last year due to distance learning, moved to different fields and found other jobs.

"At the same time there was a huge need to hire teachers. Many teachers resigned or left the profession last year so there were a lot of openings and many of our substitute educators have been hired into full-time jobs and so the pool that we have left of substitute educators is significantly smaller than it typically is," Thiel added.

Thirdly, while some substitute teachers prior to the pandemic had recently finished their teaching programs, last year those programs likely didn't see the same amount of people going into teaching, Thiel said, thinning the pool of substitutes who would typically be available even further.

And it comes as more teachers are now having to call out sick. Some, for symptoms with which, before Covid-19, they could usually go to work, like a cough or a runny nose. Others, to take care of their own children, who may have been exposed to the virus or are required to quarantine.

"Those factors have increased the number of absences but at the same time, we have fewer substitutes to fill those absences," Thiel said.

In their statement, Rosilez and Bare called the temporarily new rule a "short-term solution" which will allow districts to keep functioning "in the face of unprecedented staffing shortages while we tackle the continuing problem of teacher shortage across the state and country."

"The Commission will more fully review this temporary rule and feedback from school districts at its November meeting," their statement added.

Thiel also highlighted the rule is only a short-term fix, and added much larger system-level changes are needed to support schools and their staff.

"It's not just substitutes that we don't have enough of. It's classroom teachers, it's administrators and custodians and bus drivers and education assistants and nutrition workers and paraprofessionals," Thiel said. "Every job type we have in our schools, we're short."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 356061

Reported Deaths: 4275
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah55695704
Washington38673322
Marion36719454
Clackamas29660309
Lane27624302
Jackson22982310
Deschutes20211125
Umatilla14451150
Linn12780130
Douglas12065243
Josephine9349196
Yamhill8674113
Klamath7965118
Polk733681
Malheur561776
Benton546531
Coos501294
Columbia379744
Jefferson372352
Union318449
Lincoln318039
Crook287546
Wasco287441
Clatsop243329
Baker202529
Tillamook196432
Hood River192137
Morrow184423
Curry180025
Harney113726
Grant100013
Lake92412
Wallowa68612
Gilliam1544
Sherman1503
Wheeler1121
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 4842472

Reported Deaths: 71202
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles148181426506
Riverside3712935030
San Diego3660564183
San Bernardino3582135663
Orange3241845550
Sacramento1593332308
Kern1459621644
Fresno1458772084
Santa Clara1453911896
Alameda1205301400
San Joaquin1025821721
Ventura1009841166
Contra Costa998841008
Stanislaus860701331
Tulare80203967
San Francisco54375646
San Mateo54112622
Monterey50885587
Solano46021341
Santa Barbara45160523
Merced42299581
Sonoma40925402
Placer39342425
Imperial35999766
Kings32801322
San Luis Obispo29945332
Madera23876285
Shasta23851352
Butte23738270
Santa Cruz21018220
Yolo20353248
Marin17692244
El Dorado17169149
Sutter13913175
Napa12882100
Yuba1008582
Tehama9510110
Humboldt9243108
Nevada914290
Mendocino763687
Lassen754347
San Benito744472
Tuolumne688089
Lake6605104
Amador544064
Siskiyou450546
Glenn436733
Calaveras389381
Del Norte358342
Colusa307218
Inyo211140
Mono16703
Plumas16417
Mariposa133416
Trinity87711
Modoc6865
Sierra1880
Unassigned1820
Alpine1030
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