Del. Legislation Would Allocate Funds For Schools To Hire Permanent Substitute Teachers


Many Delaware schools are facing a shortage of substitute teachers, and now legislation has been introduced in the General Assembly that would allow for hiring of permanent, full-time substitutes.

The measure would provide funding for schools to hire up to two full-time substitute teachers starting with the 2023-24 school year.

Training, the per-diem rates and unpredictable schedules have made it difficult for many districts to find substitutes, especially through the disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The COVID-19 pandemic exposed how disruptive teacher shortages can be to our entire education system, negatively impacting students, parents, teachers, and administrators alike,” Representative Debra Heffernan, D-Bellefonte said. “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.”

Heffernan is lead sponsor of House Bill 315.

“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,” State Senator Laura Sturgeon, D-Brandywine Hundred said.  “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.”

Sturgeon chairs the Senate Education Committee and is a former teacher.

Here’s how it would work, according to the House Democratic Caucus:

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. 

“Any opportunity districts have to recruit and bring more substitutes into our buildings, is a good opportunity and worth exploring.  As teacher preparation program enrollment has dramatically declined over the past decade, our teacher candidate and substitute teacher pool has followed suit,” Seaford School District Director of Human Resources and Public Information Jason Cameron said. “It is our hope this bill will help to attract, train and retain qualified individuals to serve as substitute teachers and provide them a runway to enter teacher preparation programs.”