The House passed House Bill 315 unanimously, 40-0-1, last week, and it now awaits consideration in the Senate. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Debra Heffernan, Rep. Kimberly Williams, and Sen. Laura Sturgeon, would allow schools to hire full time substitute teachers to address our current substitute teacher shortage that arose during the pandemic. The bill would provide funding for schools to hire up to two full-time substitute teachers beginning in the 2023-2024 school year.
Many school districts struggle to hire substitute teachers due to the per-diem pay rates, unpredictable schedules, and inadequate training. HB 315 would address these issues by creating full-time salaried substitute teacher positions with benefits. These positions would only be offered to individuals who have obtained an associate’s or bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.
Substitute and teacher shortages pose severe operational challenges to schools and can be detrimental to student learning. An October 2021 Education Week study found that two-thirds of schools nationwide are addressing substitute shortages by asking employees to take on additional responsibilities, which can contribute to educator burnout and negatively impact the quality of education students receive.
Schools monitor substitute teacher shortages using fill rates, which indicate the percentage of requests for substitute teachers that are able to be filled. In Delaware, school districts throughout the state regularly reported average monthly fill rates below 50% for the 2021-2022 school year.
In addition to a full-time position with benefits, permanent substitutes would have a pathway to becoming a certified teacher. Under HB 315, permanent substitutes who hold a bachelor’s degree could use their time in the classroom as an alternative to student teaching, which is a prerequisite to obtaining an initial teaching license.
Permanent substitute teachers would also be provided professional development training on skills to prepare them for a career in education, such as classroom management, lesson preparation and implementation, and identifying disabilities.
Under HB 315, schools that enroll 30 or more educators could hire one full-time substitute. Schools that enroll 55 or more educators could hire a second full-time substitute teacher. If a school meets only 65% of the 30 or 55 educators required, the district would receive additional funding to support a district-wide full-time substitute.
School districts could also choose to take a cash option instead and use the allocated funds to support substitute teaching or reducing class size.
|House Bill 315 Sponsors||Yes Votes||No Votes|
|Heffernan, Dorsey Walker, Griffith, K.Williams, Baumbach, Bolden, Carson, Longhurst, Mitchell, Osienski, Briggs King, Ramone||House Passed 40-0-1. Baumbach Bennett Bentz Bolden Friel Bush Carson Chukwuocha Cooke Dorsey-Walker Griffith Heffernan K.Johnson K.Williams Kowalko Lambert Longhurst Lynn Matthews Mitchell Morrison Osienski S.Moore Schwartzkopf Wilson-Anton Briggs King Collins D.Short Dukes Gray Hensley M.Smith Morris Postles Ramone Shupe Smyk Spiegelman Vanderwende Yearick||Absent: Minor-Brown|
|Sturgeon, Gay, Hansen, S.McBride, Pinkney, Walsh|
|Current Status:||Senate Education Committee|
Rep. Heffernan: “The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how disruptive teacher shortages can be to our entire education system, negatively impacting students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike. By creating permanent substitute teacher positions—with fair pay, benefits, and professional development training— we can address our substitute teacher shortage, improve our educator pipeline, and give our schools another tool to increase teacher recruitment and retention.”
Sen. Laura Sturgeon: “Throughout this pandemic, our schools have relied on our substitutes more than ever before, and they have answered the call time and time again despite the low wages they are often paid and the minimal advance notice they are often given. It’s time we include substitute teachers in our unit count funding formula so our districts can hire full-time substitute teachers at a livable wage to stand at the ready when our schools and our children need them. And it’s time we build a workforce pipeline that will give our substitutes opportunities for advancement and give our schools a deeper pool of qualified and experienced job candidates.”
Rep. Kimberly Williams: “This bill provides the incentives needed to get qualified applicants in the door, but also provides the support and pathway to keep them into our highest need schools. We know that when we offer competitive salaries and benefits packages, support workers with meaningful professional development, and offer career pathways, we support employees to become dedicated and skilled professionals.”
DSEA President Stephanie Ingram: “A major concern of our members is the lack of trained and skilled substitutes available to provide desperately needed coverage for classes. Without effective coverage, class sizes balloon and educator effectiveness suffer. This bill addresses that issue by creating permanent positions for substitutes within the district and makes sure we have qualified people in the classroom at all times. Our educators are appreciative of this legislation and thank all of the legislators who have sponsored this bill.”
Red Clay School District Superintendent Dorrell Green: “The proposed legislation sponsored by Representative Heffernan, Representative Williams and Senator Sturgeon is a critical next step in helping schools and districts to meet the ongoing demand for qualified staff. This bill will be instrumental in helping to stabilize and strengthen our substitute teaching pool. Among the many things we’ve learned through the course of the pandemic is the value of additional substitute teachers who can step up and fill in when educators are impacted by illness, leaves of absence or other circumstances. Being able to offer substitute teachers more stability and professional learning, while also helping schools to maintain consistent staffing, is a win-win—especially for our students.