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New law gives DOE ability to hire 208 full-time substitutes for the upcoming school year

Rachel Sawicki
Delaware Public Media
HB 315 is signed, which offers funding for full-time employees to provide permanent substitute teaching support in Delaware schools.

Legislation providing funding for full-time positions with benefits for substitute teachers is now law, and the Department of Education plans to start using it quickly.

State Rep. Debra Heffernan’s bill takes a stab at addressing Delaware’s teacher shortage.

“The funding will cover substitutes for high needs elementary schools, permanent subs," Heffernan said. "These are real jobs, which is what people need now is jobs and it's going to help us with our teacher shortage, and it's going to keep our kids learning in schools.”

Tika Hartsock is a special education teacher, and most recently an educational diagnostician. She’s seen firsthand how this shortage of teachers and substitutes affects student learning.

“Sometimes students would be moved into the auditorium and given assignments just to have a body in there to be able to supervise," Hartsock said. "But they're not getting that same instruction that they would in a smaller class size with their regular teacher, but that was what you had to do to get by.”

Not only does the bill incentivize becoming a substitute teacher with pay and benefits, but it also counts as professional development requirements, creating a pathway for subs to become full-time teachers.

“I started out as a substitute teacher, but this also was a career change for me," Hartsock said. "So then I had to give up a full time job to just do your student teaching to be able to provide that public service. So this is going to make a tremendous difference.”

Using last year’s student enrollment data, about 208 substitute teacher jobs will be available this year. Schools qualify for one permanent sub if they have at least 30 full-time classroom teachers already, and two if they have 55 or more.

According to the fiscal note, salaries and benefits will be about $71,000 a year per substitute, split by the state and school districts. That totals $12 million in state funds and $3.2 million in local funds for Fiscal Year 2024 and 2025.

The bill passed with full bipartisan support in June.

Rachel Sawicki is Delaware Public Media's New Castle County Reporter. They are non-binary and use they/them pronouns.