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Teacher shortage has Noble Charter Schools lowering standards for full-time substitutes

Noble charter schools hiring substitutes; degrees not mandatory
Noble charter schools hiring substitutes; degrees not mandatory 02:27

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As kids head back to class, many schools are opening their doors without enough teachers. According to an EdWeek Research Center survey, 72% of school districts nationwide do not have enough applicants to fill open teaching positions.

The shortage has one charter school group in Chicago recruiting substitutes, with no experience required.

One week and counting before their 18 campuses open their doors for the new school year, Noble Charter Schools are looking for a full year subs, but their job posting doesn't require a bachelor's degree or a teaching license, and that concerns some education experts.

The Noble Schools posting for full-time substitute teachers offers a salary of $57,000 to $80,000 a year. If you check out the qualifications, two things jump out. One; a bachelor's degree is preferred, but not required. Two; a professional education license is preferred, but not required. No college degree or teaching license needed for a full-time sub in a system with 12,700 students.

"We are truly in a crisis mode," said Dr. Jason Leahy, the executive director of the Illinois Principals Association.

Leahy said he doesn't normally like to toss the word "crisis" around, but he said, according to the Association of School Administrators Job Bank, there are still more than 2,000 teaching positions open statewide. 

"I will tell you, in years past, we wouldn't see that large of a number at this time of the year," he said.

Noble Charter Schools lowering standards for full-time substitutes amid teacher shortage 02:38

The shortage is one reason Leahy says his organization supported easing hiring requirements for subs – which includes no longer requiring a college degree – as a temporary solution.

"It's not ideal. It's actually a concept that we supported just because we need people," Leahy said.

But, according to the Illinois State Board of Education's website, while a new state law lifts the requirement for substitute teachers to have a bachelor's degree, that doesn't go into effect until January 2023.

So how are Noble Charter Schools able to hire full-year subs without a degree now?  According to a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson, charter schools do not have the same licensing and certification requirements as district-managed schools. 

Miami University education professor Brian Schultz calls it problematic. 

"When we de-professionalize the educational field, and say anybody has the capacity to teach, what we end up doing is really hurting students' developing skills and critical thinking," he said. "I think that we need to stop with the quick fixes that happen to solve these problems, and think more holistically."

Leahy agreed.

"I think if that were to be viewed as a permanent solution, it just devalues really the profession of education across the board," he said.

The Chicago Teachers Union also criticized the move, saying, "while Noble says their mission is to prepare students to complete college, they fail to require the same basic degree for substitutes." 

Noble Charter Schools spokesperson David Brown said all but one substitute teacher they've hired has a bachelor's degree. Brown said not requiring a bachelor's degree or license to be a sub in their schools is one way to eliminate bias in hiring. 

As for the classroom impact if that became the norm, he didn't comment.

A spokesperson for the Illinois State Board of Education said Noble would be violating state substitute teacher requirements if they hire non-licensed, non-college educated full-time subs before January.

In response to that concern, Noble Charter Schools said it "strives to comply with all laws applicable to charter schools in Illinois and all requirements stemming from our Charter with CPS."

"We appreciate you bringing the concern to our attention. Noble's recruitment and hiring practices are focused on finding the best educators to serve our 12,000 students across the City of Chicago. Our year-long substitute positions are created to support various classrooms when a teacher is out on parental leave, providing a more stable and consistent educational experience for our students. These substitute positions allow more candidates who have the passion, competencies, dispositions, and skills to serve our students to join the profession of teaching. All substitute positions receive the same development and coaching as our full-time teachers, and these positions provide a pathway to getting more talented and qualified teachers in our classrooms."

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