Pa. House passes bill to loosen rules on substitute teachers

Legislation to provide more flexibility when it comes to finding substitute teachers to staff classrooms won unanimous approval on Monday from the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The legislation, sponsored by Rep. Barb Gleim, R-Cumberland County, now goes to the Senate for consideration.

It aims to help ease the problem districts are facing with a current shortage of substitute teachers who can work on a day-by-day basis.

The bill would redefine what a “single assignment” is in the law to allow a teacher with a day-to-day substitute permit or chief school administrator to serve as a substitute in any certificate area for up to 20 days for more than one temporary absent professional or temporary professional employee, instead of just a particular employee. Longer assignments would require them to obtain a state Department of Education-issued long-term substitute permit.

It also would allow an individual with an inactive teaching certification who is not collecting a school pension to be employed as a substitute for up to 180 days in a school year (currently, they are limited to 90 days); and it removes the June 30 sunset date of a pilot program allowing prospective teachers enrolled in a teacher preparation program to serve as day-to-day substitutes for up to 20 days a year.

Ms. Gleim, a former Cumberland Valley School Board member, said this was an issue that she brought with her when she was first elected to the House in 2018. She learned it was a problem not only at Cumberland Valley but other school districts in her House district. Through further research, she said she learned the substitute teacher shortage was a statewide problem and set out to find a solution.

“This was a problem before COVID and then COVID expanded it and made it even worse,” Ms. Gleim said. “We knew we needed to come up with legislation right away to help everybody and I feel as well as the stakeholders feel that this was a good compromise for the issues that we’re facing right now when teachers need to leave if they are sick or even if their kid is sick, or or any type of illness, this legislation will help. I’m very pleased everybody worked together to get this done.”