Neb. Mulls Hiring Substitutes Without 4-Year Degrees

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Facing a widespread shortage of substitute teachers, the Nebraska state school board last week considered a proposal that would allow substitutes without a bachelor's degree into the classroom.

The proposal, drafted by a special task force made up of teachers, administrators, and substitutes, would allow a school district to request a one-year substitute certificate for an adult who had 60 hours, or roughly two years, of college credit. Currently, Nebraska only gives five-year substitute permits to those with teaching certificates.

The board was set to act on the proposal late last week, despite the fact that the Nebraska Council on Teacher Education, a statewide group that advises the board on teacher certification and education, voted against the proposal. The board intended to decide whether to hold hearings on the matter, said Marge Harouff, an administrator for the Nebraska education department and a task force member.

Also up for board deliberation was a second task force recommendation that would allow substitutes to teach an unlimited number of days per year rather than the current 90-day limit. The teacher education council approved that recommendation.

Randy Freeman, a schools superintendent who served on the task force, said that the current requirements are so strict that it is difficult to find enough qualified substitutes. Many administrators around the country have faced such a shortage of substitutes. ("Absence Makes Districts Scramble for Stand-Ins," Jan. 17, 1996.)

The Best Person

Mr. Freeman, the superintendent of the 620-student West Point public schools in West Point, cited the example of a local farmer with a degree in agriculture but without teacher certification. He could teach an agriculture class and do a better job than a substitute who was certified to teach art, Mr. Freeman said. "Just because a person has a certificate to teach doesn't necessarily make them the best person for that class," he maintained.

Mr. Freeman also pointed to neighboring Kansas, which allows districts to grant "emergency" substitute certificates to individuals who have only 60 credit hours.

Jean Ramage, the dean of the college of education at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, said that she recognized that there was a shortage of substitute teachers. But at the very least, she said, the proposal should be limited to people who had received the 60 credit hours as part of a teacher certification program.

Ms. Ramage, who is also a member of the Nebraska Council on Teacher Education, noted that the proposal would then enable students in a teaching program to serve as substitutes in professional-development schools.

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