Missouri reimburses costs to become a substitute teacher

Program ends on November 4th.

JASPER COUNTY, Mo. – Dana Newman originally started substitute teaching to make some extra money. But it quickly turned into so much more.

“It’s enjoyable. You actually get your feet into a classroom so you know what your own child is going through,” says Dana Newman, a substitute teacher at South Middle School in Joplin.

Now, 20 years later, she can still be found in a classroom.

“Love it. I absolutely love it,” says Newman.

Pretty much every district in the area could use more people like Newman, as the country tries to work through a substitute teacher shortage. Something that’s been made worse because of the pandemic.

“A lot of our substitutes are often retired and older folks,” explains Justin Crawford, Director of Educational Support and Human Resources at Joplin School District. “There have been some of those that either won’t substitute as much or as regularly, or some that are just kind of sitting on the sideline to try to see how everything plays out.”

Crawford explains that they’ve been pushing to hire as many substitutes as they can — reimbursing part of the fees for getting certified, hoping it will incentivize more people to take the final step.

After all that work, they’ve gotten up to around a 90 percent fill rate. Better than back in March when the district was shut down, but not quite where they like to see it.

“I don’t want to be anything under 90, and probably 95 to a hundred would be ideal.”

The Webb City School District is also having issues.

“We might have seventy, eighty people on our sub list, but only maybe 15 to 20 of them are actually active,” says Webb City Superintendent Tony Rossetti.

In August, the State Board of Education changed the requirements for becoming a substitute teacher. Previously, residents were required to have completed at least 60 credit hours of college courses to be eligible. The change loosened that requirement so that people with high school diplomas or equivalent can become a substitute, after completing a 20-hour online training course.

Then, on October 22nd, the state department of education announced that Coronavirus Relieve Funds would be used to reimburse the costs of receiving a certificate. That process includes a $50 application fee, a $175 online course fee, and a $41.75 fee for a fingerprint background check. They are using funds to reimburse those fees for any individual who’s paid them from August 18th through November 4th.

Crawford thinks the incentive will make it easier for residents to take the step forward since it won’t cost them anything to get certified.

“We felt like that was an obstacle to some folks that would want to sub for us,” says Crawford. “So that’s huge.”

“My hope is that it will have a positive effect. The reality is I think it’s just gonna be marginal. I don’t know that we’re gonna have a considerable amount of people changing their minds from, hey, this is what I am doing, and now I’m gonna do something different,” says Rossetti. “I think probably if we were trying to incentivize some of our people that are on our list for them to be able to come in, that might be a little bit more effective.”

Newman, much like Crawford, hopes it will have a big impact so that more people can experience what she gets to every day she’s in the classroom.

“For Missouri to step up and say, hey, yes there is a shortage… now is the time for us to back our teachers and our education,” says Newman.

Joplin is pausing their reimbursements until after the state program ends. They will then continue to do reimbursements after that.

More details for the state reimbursement program can be found below:

Mo DESE Sub Reimbursements