Oregon temporarily lifts college degree requirements for substitute teachers

Kayla Wolf, News Editor

After 18 months of distance learning, school districts across the state are facing a new challenge as they return to in-person instruction: finding substitute teachers.

Currently, Oregon is experiencing a substitute teacher shortage. According to ABC News, the number of substitute teachers with college degrees decreased from 8,290 in December of 2019 to 4,738 as of Sept. 18, 2021. Since substitutes were not needed during distance learning last year, many of them chose to pursue other career paths. Others feel uncomfortable resuming in-person substitute jobs due to the virus. This decline comes as the pandemic has increased the need for substitutes, especially because of new protocols that require teachers to stay home for up to 14 days if they have any symptoms of COVID-19, according to the Oregon Department of Education (ODE). 

To combat the shortage, the Oregon Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC) announced a temporary rule on Oct. 11 that allows anyone to apply to become a substitute teacher. Even if applicants do not have a degree in education, they can apply for the new “Emergency Restricted Substitute License.” According to TSPC’s updated guidelines, applicants are eligible if they “have obtained the sponsorship of an Oregon school district, education service district or charter school,” are “at least 18 years of age” and if they are “of good moral character, and mental and physical health necessary for employment as an educator.” 

Under this rule, applicants also no longer need to pass a TSPC-issued test on current rights and ethics codes for Oregon and the United States.  The rule is set to end on March 29, 2022. 

“This rule maintains the responsibility of districts to ensure that the adults caring for the students in the classroom have skills and dispositions necessary to be a temporary substitute teacher who can keep students safe and learning,” TSPC’s executive director Anthony Rosilez and chair Erika Bare said in a statement according to CNN. 

These special Emergency Restricted Substitute Licenses will be valid until the end of the 2021-22 school year or six months from the time of the application’s submission, depending on when the application is received. 

However, there is a limit on the number of days a substitute teacher with this new license can work. According to KGW News, these substitutes are unable to fill in for teachers long-term. They can have the same position for 10 consecutive days before a licensed teacher would be called into the classroom to take over, but these substitutes can still work for other teachers in the district. 

With the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, only time will tell if the substitute teacher shortage will improve and how it will impact Tualatin students.