HARRISBURG (June 30, 2016) A bill authored by Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) to increase the pool of substitute teachers across the state passed the Senate today.

“Many school districts are struggling with a growing shortage of substitute educators,” Smucker said.  “This bill will help to fill that vacuum and also offer an added benefit:  it will give college students who want to be teachers the opportunity to gain valuable experience in the classroom.”

Smucker said the innovative idea was inspired by Lancaster-area educators and other testifiers at a joint Senate and House Education Committee hearing, held last October.

The hearing highlighted a growing scarcity of substitute teachers in the Commonwealth, and more broadly, a growing shortage of teachers nationwide, said Smucker, who is Chairman of the Senate Education Committee.

“Some school districts have been reporting ‘fill’ rates of only 70 percent on any given day, and some areas have opted to outsource their substitutes or have been left with no choice but to request frequent emergency permits for day-to-day substitutes,” Smucker said.   “This interrupts the learning process and cuts into precious instructional time.”

“The pool of future teachers now studying in our colleges and universities are a valuable resource that can be part of the solution,” Smucker said.  “These are advanced students who care about children and the quality of education.   Allowing aspiring teachers to serve as substitute teachers will give them valuable experience and early exposure to the classroom environment, while also providing a readily available, cost-effective and high-quality pool of teachers for school districts.”

Specifically, Senate Bill 1312 allows college students who have completed 60 credit hours and who are enrolled in a teacher preparation program at a four-year college in Pennsylvania to substitute for a limited number of days in any school district in the Commonwealth.

“This is an important initiative to help alleviate the substitute teacher crisis,” Smucker said.     “When a teacher is absent and no one is there to lead the classroom and carry out the lesson plans, learning suffers. We want to maximize instructional time by offering college students who are dedicated to education.”

The bill must now receive the support of the House before it becomes law.

“The teachers of tomorrow can help ease the substitute teacher crisis today,” Smucker said.

CONTACT:     Diane McNaughton, (717) 787-6535