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Legis/2-21/Subs/SG for web

by Shawn Gainer

STAFF WRITER

CHARLESTON -- A bill intended to help county school systems alleviate a substitute teacher shortage was forwarded to the full body of the House of Delegates Monday.

House Bill 4118 would permit retired teachers to substitute an unlimited number of days without losing benefits. Currently, the number of days a retired teacher can substitute without losing benefits is capped at 100.

Harrison County Superintendent of Schools Robert Kittle said Monday the bill would be a great help to counties that struggle to find certified teachers when substitutes are needed to cover classrooms.

"In my opinion, that's an excellent bill. It would have a major effect on most counties," Kittle said. "In the past, that cap has been a major factor in the substitute shortage. It will help us because we have a lot of retired teachers in Harrison County."

Kittle added that while the substitute teacher shortage is not as critical in Harrison as in some other counties, the school system has had problems finding certified substitutes toward the end of the school year.

The bill was approved by the House Finance Committee after a second reference from the Education Committee.

Del. Jerry Mezzatesta, D-Hampshire, who chairs the Education Committee, said the shortage is so bad that some school systems are having to train and use substitutes who do not have college degrees.

Kittle said Harrison County schools have not yet been forced to use that option.

"I would prefer to use a certified teacher every time, but as a last resort, using a non-certified person would be better than having a vacant classroom," he said.

Delegates Sam Cann, D-Harrison, and Barbara Warner, D-Harrison, both members of the House Finance Committee, said Monday they support the bill.

"It doesn't cost the state anything and could help school systems that really need the additional substitutes," Cann said.

Warner said, simply, "I think we should do it."

Mezzatesta added that he believes the bill would help the shortage the minute it became law.

"Hopefully, we'll get a fast track on this bill," he said.

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