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Bill Could Offer Fix for Substitute Teacher Shortage in Ohio Schools

students in Westerville classroom
Karen Kasler
Statehouse News Bureau
A classroom of students in a Westerville elementary school in 2017. Substitute teachers, who otherwise wouldn't be qualified to work, will be able to continue teaching under a bill being considered that's meant to provide a short-term solution for the shortage of substitute teachers.

Ohio schools are not just suffering with a bus driver shortage, but also a shortfall of substitute teachers. State lawmakers are considering a bill that schools hope will relieve that, at least in the short term.

Danny Holbrook has been a juvenile probation officer and a school social worker. Last year he was substitute teaching and coaching track at a school in Waynesfield near Lima, and he wants to do it again.

“I applied for my license through the state, and it’s been on hold for forever. And they’re telling me I’m not qualified to do it because I don’t have the bachelor’s degree," Holbrook told the House Primary and Secondary Education Committee.

Though the state requires substitute teachers to have at least four-year degrees, Holbrook was working under a law allowing districts to set their own standards for substitutes, which expired at the end of last school year, as the pandemic continued.

“They didn’t ask me about a four-year degree. They looked at what I’ve done for 28 years, and they believed in me and they let me do a job," Holbrook said.

Former teacher and Democratic Rep. Mary Lightbody (D-Westerville), who still teaches education at Ohio State, said she was concerned the bill would allow inexperienced people into classrooms. But she said she could support this short-term fix.

That House committee voted to extend that law till May with a bill that also requires high school students to take a financial literacy class. That's an idea that polls show is very popular.

It still must be approved by the full House and Senate.
Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Karen is a lifelong Ohioan who has served as news director at WCBE-FM, assignment editor/overnight anchor at WBNS-TV, and afternoon drive anchor/assignment editor in WTAM-AM in Cleveland. In addition to her daily reporting for Ohio’s public radio stations, she’s reported for NPR, the BBC, ABC Radio News and other news outlets. She hosts and produces the Statehouse News Bureau’s weekly TV show “The State of Ohio”, which airs on PBS stations statewide. She’s also a frequent guest on WOSU TV’s “Columbus on the Record”, a regular panelist on “The Sound of Ideas” on ideastream in Cleveland, appeared on the inaugural edition of “Face the State” on WBNS-TV and occasionally reports for “PBS Newshour”. She’s often called to moderate debates, including the Columbus Metropolitan Club’s Issue 3/legal marijuana debate and its pre-primary mayoral debate, and the City Club of Cleveland’s US Senate debate in 2012.