As state's grapple with a substitute teacher shortage, Louisiana lawmakers might soon fill in the classroom as educators.
The teacher shortage is affecting schools across the nation. The public education system is struggling to fill vacancies and some are at risk of losing accreditation. To combat this, many new solutions are being implemented, but Louisiana lawmakers have just passed HR 99, which would bring state lawmakers into classrooms as substitutes.
This approach displays a new dedication. State Representative Patrick Jefferson authored the bill as Vice Chair of the House Education Committee. He spoke about the need to get off the bench and be more active in this “game.” HR 99 encourages Louisiana lawmakers to “provide for the education of the people,” and gain “first-hand knowledge of and experience with public schools, teachers, and classrooms.”
The teaching profession has been struggling for years. Less young adults are seeking education degrees and the areas most affected by this are math, science, and English. Core class teachers are becoming so scarce that school districts are offering hefty sign-on bonuses and even large bonuses just for coming to work each day with little to no sick days used. The substitute teacher shortage places even more burden on the teachers who are working because they often have to cover for other teachers or take on my students than they can handle, leading to a call for Louisiana lawmakers to fill in.
This has added to massive teacher burnout and led to a high number of teachers who plan to retire early. It is an unsustainable cycle that has been spiraling out of control since before the pandemic. What Louisiana lawmakers hope is that by offering direct support and getting into classrooms, educators will not burn out as easily and can teach for longer. This would have positive long-lasting effects and improve the state government’s understanding of the local education system.
The measure is being praised for breaching the gap between Louisiana lawmakers and the people they represent. It even specifically describes the need to engage with students and teachers to foster a better relationship within the community and strengthen the public school system. It names this work as a “constitutional duty” during the current state of uncertainty.
Although Louisiana lawmakers will not be required to step up and volunteer as substitute teachers, there is an emphasis on encouraging each representative to fill in, and so whether or not this solves the current issue remains to be seen. At the present 2,500 teacher positions are currently unfilled in Louisiana. With an average of 20 students per classroom that amounts to about 50,000 children who are impacted by the shortage from kindergarten through high school.
While other states draw in new substitutes by utilizing student teachers, parents, and state employees and by even calling retired teachers back into classrooms, Louisiana lawmakers have taken it upon themselves to accept the responsibility. Being a simple resolution, HR 99 is not state law, nor does it require approval from any other branch of government. Even so, by passing this resolution the state may see representatives entering classrooms as soon as this fall. This unconventional solution is no more experimental than others which are being experienced throughout the country, and there are many hopes that it will provide teachers and students with enough support that they can meet many successes.