Substitute teacher shortages in Michigan were common even before the COVID-19 pandemic began, but now the shortages are reaching a breaking point in many districts.

To combat the shortage, Michigan lawmakers passed a bill that would allow for substitute teachers to only be required to have a high school diploma or equivalency certificate. The current requirements are an associate degree, 60 college credits, or technical subject matter expertise. The change in the requirements would allow for most cafeteria workers and bus drivers to fill in as a substitute if needed.

The bill passed mostly along party lines with almost all Senate Republicans voting yes, along with a few Democrats crossing over to join them in a yes vote. Now, the bill will head to the Governor's desk to be signed into law, but it is unclear if she will sign or veto the bill.

There have been teacher shortages across Michigan schools for years now and since the beginning of the pandemic, those shortages have been exacerbated. Republican lawmakers argued that the need is so great that lower standards for substitute teachers need to be implemented to fill position openings. Democrats in turn argued that by lowering standards, the quality of education could suffer.

Education groups have split their support for the bill. The Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrator supports the bill and hopes that it will help them to fill as many openings as possible, while the teachers' unions and the state Department of Education have voiced their opposition to the bill.

Both the Michigan Senate and the House of Representatives have approved the bill and now it will make its way to Governor Gretchen Whitmer for approval. The Governor's office has yet to issue a statement about whether or not it will receive her support.

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