The Lead

Pennsylvania House passes bill giving schools flexibility to hire substitutes

By: - July 7, 2023 11:54 am

Penn Wood High School in the William Penn School District. Landsdowne, Pennsylvania on June 15, 2023. (Amanda Berg for the Capital-Star)

Pennsylvania schools could hire retired teachers as substitutes under a bill passed by the state House on Thursday that makes a pandemic-era law giving some flexibility to address the staffing crisis permanent.

Lawmakers in the lower chamber unanimously voted to approve legislation introduced by Rep. James Struzzi, R-Indiana, that continues letting schools hire retired educators as substitute teachers on an emergency or short-term basis — an allowance initially passed by the Legislature and signed by then-Gov. Tom Wolf in 2021 but expired at the end of the most recent academic year.

“Act 91 of 2021 gave schools flexibility regarding the shortage of day-to-day substitute teachers,” Struzzi said. “It dealt with employing annuitants, prospective teachers, and graduates of educator preparation programs as substitutes, something we should continue to do since the shortage still exists.”

Under the proposal, student-teachers, retired teachers, and those with temporary teaching certificates and substitute teaching permits could serve as a substitute, with limitations on the number of days a student-teacher can be in a classroom.

“The bill would permit retired educators and staff to work in our public school for more than 20 days without any impact on their pension,” state Rep. John Schlegel, R-Lebanon, who co-sponsored the bill, said. “This legislation would not only help to address staff shortages in our schools, it would provide students with the benefit of the knowledge and experience these retirees bring.”

The House sent the bill to the GOP-controlled state Senate, which isn’t scheduled to return to Harrisburg until mid-September.

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