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A new law that allows school districts to use support staff as substitute teachers was not originally well received. Many envisioned bus drivers and cafeteria workers suddenly taking on a role of teacher, for which they had no preparation. Turns out, not many school districts took advantage of this opportunity. See highlights below of Michigan’s new law:

The problem

The new law in Michigan

  • New law temporarily allows school staff members to cover classrooms even if they wouldn’t otherwise be qualified to substitute teach.
  • They need only a high school diploma or equivalency certificate (zero college).
  • Substitutes who are not school staff members still have to meet the normal requirements (associate degree, 60 college credits, or, in the case of career and technical courses, subject-matter expertise.

How its going

  • Three months after the law was enacted, only two districts regularly take advantage of the new law.
  • Those using subs are using paraprofessionals, who assist teachers and already are familiar with students and with classroom routines, so it is not that far a stretch.

Other considerations

  • Allow former school employees to begin substitute teaching four months after retirement, instead of one year.
  • Remove financial penalties for returning retirees who earn too much.


  • Many do not intend to use unqualified school staff to sub, but in a pinch may have to and the flexibility is appreciated.
  • Still, it is disingenuous to expect that they provide a day of instruction in accordance with what the state expects every other day of the school year from highly qualified, certified teachers.
  • Policy makers, school administrators, and state education officials should come together to develop a set of legislation solutions that will truly alleviate the substitute shortage.

The Testing Connection

  • This is similar to state rules that allow paraprofessionals to help with test administration.
  • Much like many of the superintendents in Michigan, testing coordinators also tend to shy away from assigning unprepared staff to primary roles.
  • The risks are too high and the work in simply too important.
  • We need are most highly trained and best prepared staff in these high impact roles.


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