Zorn bill would help alleviate substitute teacher shortage

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Dale Zorn on Wednesday introduced legislation to allow a retired  school employee to return to the classroom as a substitute teacher after only two months instead of having to wait at least one year.

“Schools throughout Michigan are facing a critical shortage of substitute teachers, which has caused some schools to close or switch to remote learning because they simply don’t have enough teachers and substitutes,” said Zorn, R-Ida. “This reform is the result of working with local educators and looking at other states to see what we can do to help address the substitute teacher shortage in our state.”

Under current law, school retirees may come back and work in a critical shortage area without it affecting their retirement benefits until July 2025 — but only if they have been retired for at least 12 months.

Senate Bill 726 would reduce the wait time from 12 months to two months for retired school employees to return to work without impacting their retirement benefits.

“This timeframe mirrors laws in Ohio and Tennessee that allow retired teachers to return to teaching after two months,” Zorn said. “Although the current situation has been exasperated by the pandemic, the shortage of substitute teachers has been an issue for years. The difference now is that is it affecting the ability of schools to stay open and teach our kids.”

According to research from Michigan State University in 2019, 64% of Michigan school districts said they were not able to find a substitute multiple times a week and another 21% had unfilled vacancies once a week. The study also said that 86% of responding school districts reported a moderate or severe decline in the number of available substitute teachers.

SB 726 has been referred to the Senate Education and Career Readiness Committee for consideration.

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