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Getting Answers: Newsom's Emergency Order Makes It Easier To Hire Substitute Teachers

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) -- A temporary executive order, signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom Tuesday, is aimed at giving California school districts options to manage staffing shortages caused by the surge of COVID-19 cases and the omicron variant.

The order, which took effect immediately, will expire on March 31, 2022. It allows educational agencies the ability to issue a 30-day emergency substitute credential, even if the person does not have a credential in-the-works or a permit application. All the candidate must have is an undergraduate degree from a regionally accredited college or university and pass a criminal background check.

The order also doubles the time substitute teachers can be assigned a single general education assignment, from 60 to 120 days.

Student teachers, under this emergency order, may serve as teacher without the typical requirement that they be supervised by a certified teacher in a classroom.

Finally, another piece of this order districts have already started to utilize, the order continues the incentives for retired educators. These incentives include suspension of certain post-retirement compensation limitations and suspension of the required 180-day service break.

What does all of this mean for schools? For starters, it allows schools to hire substitute teachers to fill-in as many campuses are seeing staff absences grow during this omicron surge.

"The realities of what schools are facing as just not having enough adult supervision in classrooms, is putting a lot of stress on the system," said Troy Flint, California School Boards Association Chief Information Officer.

Flint said school districts statewide are feeling the impacts of staff shortages and, in some cases, are having conversations about staying open.

"Really, [some districts] could've buckled and closed schools last week but they're trying to do everything that they can to make sure that kids have a place to go and they can still receive some type of instruction, even if it isn't up to the standards that we would normally want in a regular environment," Flint said.

He said the executive order, while helpful, does not fully address long-term staffing shortages than many schools started the year with and felt even before the pandemic.

"That doesn't address the fundamental issue, when you're losing a fifth, quarter or a third of your staff to absences, you're not going to be able to backfill those sufficiently," Flint said.

Getting Answers: Who's in the Classroom with Students?

Just because some of the requirements to become a substitute teacher have been dropped temporarily, like passing the California Basic Skills Test, CBS13 has details about the process.

The executive order does not remove the background check and fingerprinting required for employment. In some districts, potential substitutes must also interview or meet with a representative in human resources.

"That substitute teacher is not coming in alone, they're coming in with a whole lot of support," said Angela Griffin Ankhelyi, director of communication and community engagement at Folsom Cordova Unified School District.

Griffin Ankhelyi said first-time teachers will be supported with teaching material, administration guidance, and check-ins with other teachers within the grade or subject. 

"They're not coming in to just make things up all on their own, they're going to be supported with that personnel alongside and oversight from administration from the school site," said Griffin Ankhelyi.

On safety with new hires: "We won't compromise on that," she added.

In Elk Grove Unified School District, a similar story, with more staff absences due to COVID-related illness, more substitutes are needed.

"Beforehand, without that order, our hands are tied in a few different ways," said Xanthi Soriano, director of communications at EGUSD.

One of those changes, now, is student teachers can be activated to step-in and teach. Relationships established by the district are important, now, during a surge of COVID cases. 

"We're in this together," said Soriano.

Soriano added EGUSD did research about the right daily rate for substitute teachers to offer a competitive rate.

Elk Grove Unified School District Day-to-Day Substitute Rates
Tier 1 1-60 Days $135 per day for full day ($67.50 for half-day)
Tier 2 61-120 Days $160 per day for full day ($80 for half-day)
Tier 3 121-160 Days $175 per day for full day ($87.50 for half-day)
Tier 4 160 + Days $175 per day for full day ($87.50 for half-day)

This information, found online at EGUSD, is a snapshot of what local districts will pay substitutes who complete the processes.

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