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Gov. Whitmer reviewing bill that would allow janitors, secretaries and bus drivers to substitute teach

The bill aims to help fill vacancies school districts, including here in West Michigan, are struggling to fill.

LANSING, Mich. — Governor Gretchen Whitmer is reviewing a bill that would let janitors, secretaries and bus drivers substitute teach. It aims to help fill vacancies school districts, including here in West Michigan, are struggling to fill.

The state representative who introduced the bill said it would widen the pool, but a spokesman with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) said it's just a Band-Aid solution that doesn't address the core problem.

House Bill 4294 allows support staff, including janitors, secretaries, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, assistant coaches, to substitute teach if they want by removing 60 college credit requirement. 

"This is something that I've been working on for a handful of years because there are a lot of people that have a lot of wisdom to offer young people. People recognize their faces. This is something that the doors closed to them because they may not have 60 college credits," Rep. Brad Paquette - (R) District 78 who sponsored the bill. 

A spokesperson for Grand Rapids Public Schools said the number one pressure facing the district right now is finding teachers for vacant positions and subs when existing teachers need to be out.

"We have capable people willing to go beyond their job description to help. HB 4294 is a temporary, short-term solution that we support and are asking Governor Whitmer to sign," said John Helmholdt, the Executive Director of Communications & External Affairs at GRPS. 

The MEA is opposed to the bill because according to the group, it doesn't address the state shortage of trained and qualified educators. And it would create shortages in other areas.

"If politicians really want to solve the educator shortage, then they need to increase compensation and respect public school educators for the professionals they are," said Thomas Morgan, a spokesman for the MEA.

If the bill passes, Morgan said they'll support the governor even though they disagree on this issue.

If it's signed, this bill would go into effect immediately although it is a temporary measure. It would last until June 2022. 

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