Ky. substitute teachers would no longer need college credits, under bill approved in House committee
Amid a dire teacher shortage, a committee of Kentucky lawmakers advanced a measure that would allow applicants without college experience to substitute teach.
As Kentucky classrooms scramble to find enough teachers, a committee of state lawmakers approved a measure Tuesday that would lower the education requirements for substitutes.
Current law requires substitute teachers to have a bachelor’s degree or at least 64 hours of college credit. House Bill 387 would reduce those requirements to a high school diploma or equivalent, such as a GED.
Bill sponsor Republican Rep. Timmy Truett is the principal of McKee Elementary in Jackson County. He told the House Education Committee that recently his school had to make do with nine teachers out and no available substitutes. He said he wanted to call in retired school secretaries or other adults in the community, but they don’t have enough college credits.
“I can think of all kinds of different examples who I would love to have in my building, but can’t get them there because they don’t have those 64 hours,” Truett said.
Under HB 387, applicants with a high school diploma would be eligible for a one-year emergency substitute certification. Applicants would still have to go through background checks.
The measure would also extend the length of certification for substitutes with higher qualifications.
Committee members passed the measure unanimously, though a few lawmakers thought there should be age requirements for substitutes.
Lexington Republican Rep. Killian Timoney, an administrator in Fayette County Public Schools, supported the measure but said it went against his “core principles” on educator qualifications.
“If we didn’t have a shortage — a teacher shortage and a sub shortage right now — I’d be a ‘no’ on this,” Timoney said.
Timoney called the measure a “band-aid” on the larger problem of the teacher shortage.
“We’re going to keep putting band-aids on these issues until we change the game and attract teachers into the profession with pay, with safety, with security, with standards, with accountability measures that are fair and accurate and do truly represent what's going on with our schools,” he said.
The committee also approved a resolution Tuesday to create a task force to study the state’s funding formula for public schools, known as the Support Education Excellence in Kentucky, or SEEK, fund.
SEEK, developed in the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, is designed to equalize school funding across districts with different tax bases. That was in direct response to a 1989 Kentucky Supreme Court decision that found unequal funding among districts violated the state constitution.
Truett, who sponsored the resolution, told LPM News he hoped the proposed task force would find ways to tweak the SEEK formula to provide more funding to schools, especially for teacher raises.
“I just want to make sure that we’ve got a formula that works for every district,” he said.
A recent report from the progressive Kentucky Center for Economic Policy found that even under SEEK, the gap in funding between the poorest and richest districts has grown wider than it was in 1989.
The study authors concluded that was mostly due to a lack of overall investment by state lawmakers into SEEK and not the formula itself.
Both HB 387 and the SEEK task force resolution now head to the House floor.
Lawmakers created a similar task force in 2021. The School Funding Task Force released nine recommendations later that year, which included pivoting away from an attendance-based funding model to an enrollment-based funding model for SEEK.
The task force also recommended fully funding districts’ transportation costs and permanently funding full-day kindergarten.
State law currently only requires lawmakers to fund a half-day of kindergarten for each child. Districts cover the rest with local funds, and some school systems charge families kindergarten fees to make up the difference. Lawmakers have been funding a full day on a temporary basis since 2021.
The budget proposal that passed the House would fund full-day kindergarten for the next budget cycle and fully fund districts’ transportation costs by 2025 for the first time since 2005.