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Act 91 of 2021 Guidance

Act 91: Providing Relief to the Field to Address Pennsylvania's Substitute Teacher Shortage

Updated January 14, 2022

Dear Colleagues,

Across the commonwealth, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate critical staffing shortages. Act 91 of 2021 focuses on the substitute teacher shortage and is the next step PDE is taking to address educator shortages in a holistic way. In addition, LEAs have four existing options for implementing staffing flexibilities.

Broadly speaking, Act 91 enables LEAs to employ annuitants, day-to-day substitutes, educators with inactive certification, graduates of educator preparation programs, and a subset of those serving as student teachers to be employed as substitutes. Act 91 provisions complement existing statutory and regulatory options that have been available to the field since before the pandemic. Details on both sets of provisions are included below.

Act 91 Provisions

Section 129 stipulates that for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years, school employers may use annuitants in an emergency or in the case of a shortage of day-to-day substitute teachers identified by the school employer without having to first attempt to utilize nonretired personnel, except that school employers must first comply with 24 P.S. 1125.1(d) regarding the recall of furloughed employees. The provisions of 24 PA. C.S.A. § 8346.(b) related to the continuation of annuity during a return to school service during an emergency apply to this section.

Section 1114(A) codifies existing requirements for day-to-day emergency permits:

Department Issued Day-to-Day Substitute Permits (Type 06)
An individual holding a day-to-day substitute permit issued in accordance with 22 Pa. Code § 49.31 may substitute in any certificate area for no more than 20 days. Individuals may serve as a day-to-day substitute for more than one professional or temporary professional employee even if the individual serves for more than 20 cumulative days as a day-to- day substitute within a school year. If an LEA requires substituting beyond 20 days for an individual professional or temporary professional employee, a long-term section 49.31 substitute permit is required.

Locally Issued Day-To-Day Substitute Permits
Individuals holding a locally issued day-to-day substitute permit in accordance with 22 Pa. Code § 49.34 may serve as a day-to-day substitute in any certificate area for a period not to exceed 20 days. Locally issued permit holders may serve as a day-to-day substitute for multiple professional or temporary professional employees for more than 20 cumulative days within a school year. Individuals holding a valid and active Pennsylvania certificate or comparable out-of-state certificate may serve as a day-to-day substitute in the individual's certificate area for 20 days. An emergency permit issued by the PDE under section 49.31 is required if substituting for an individual professional or temporary professional employee exceeds 20 days.

Amends 24 P.S. § 12-1201.1 Substitute Teaching for Prospective Teachers by allowing students enrolled in educator preparation programs to serve an unlimited number of days as a substitute for the 2021-2021 and 2022-2023 school years, except for a student teacher who is undertaking the student teaching experience under 22 Pa. Code 354.25(f). Section 1201.1 permits Chief School Administrators to issue permits to students currently enrolled in educator preparation programs —provided the student is continuously enrolled in a PDE-approved undergraduate educator preparation program and the student has taken at least 60 semester hours or its equivalent. Note: A Teacher Information Management System application is not required; however, the LEA must maintain records for individuals with these permits.

Amends 24 P.S § 12-1205.2 Continuing Professional Development by allowing educators with inactive certification who are not annuitants to substitute for 180 days per school year on the inactive certificate.

Amends 24 P.S. § 12-1215 Locally Issued Temporary Certification for Substitute Teachers by enabling LEAs to issue permits to an individual with a letter from an educator preparation program that verifies the individual has completed an approved teacher preparation program, has successfully completed certification testing requirements or is in the process of scheduling the required tests, and has completed all the requirements for earning a bachelor's degree on a date certain. These permits are used for day-to-day assignments and expire at the end of the school year (including summer) or upon the individual's receipt of an Instructional I certification. For the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school year, these substitute certificates may be used for assignments of more than 20 consecutive days to fill a position due to the absence of a professional employee.

Section 1218 Classroom Monitor Permits enables PDE to issue classroom monitor permits to individuals for service in an LEA to deliver student assignments preplanned by a professional employee or temporary professional. Monitors may not plan or create lessons or grade work.

Classroom monitors must be at least 25 years of age and have 1) completed 60 semester hours or equivalent courses at an accredited college or university in this commonwealth, or 2) at least three years of school entity experience as a paraprofessional and be currently employed in a school. Classroom monitors must also meet background check and clearance requirements under the School Code and Child Protection Service Law and complete training in classroom management through an Intermediate Unit-developed program approved by PDE. Expires June 30, 2023.

Section 1219 Substitute Teacher Policy requires that by February 15, 2022 each teacher preparation program approved by the department develop a policy regarding allowing an individual undertaking a student teacher program under 22 Pa. Code § 354.25(f) (relating to preparation program curriculum) and satisfying the requirements of section 1201.1(1) to teach as a substitute in exchange for financial compensation, if the individual has received at least one satisfactory observation related to the individual's student teacher program. A teacher preparation program policy may not prohibit substitute teaching by individuals who have received at least one satisfactory observation related to their student teacher program.

Existing Statutory and Regulatory Provisions

22 Pa. Code § 49.31 Emergency Permits

Long-term Substitute without an Educational Obligation (Type 04)
LEAs may request long-term substitute permits for individuals who possess a bachelor's degree for positions that exceed 20 days and for which the LEA cannot find an appropriately certified and qualified individual for an assignment where future employment is not anticipated by the LEA. These positions are generally temporary or are being discontinued. Instances include positions where the individual is on sabbatical, medical, or maternity leave (temporary coverage); coverage while recruiting; and coverage for a position that will be eliminated at the end of the school year. These permits expire at the end of the school year in which they were issued.

Long-term Substitute with an Educational Obligation (Type 01)
LEAs may request a long-term substitute permit for individuals who hold a bachelor's degree to serve in positions that exceed 20 days and for which the LEA cannot find an appropriately certified and qualified individual for an assignment the LEA anticipates future employment for the position. Instances of qualifying vacancies include new position; resignation; termination; retirement; or death. Note that after January 1, 2022, LEAs may request these permits for special education PK-12 as a single subject area. These permits expire at the end of the school year in which they are issued.

Note that substitute educators retained through private providers need an active and valid certificate or an emergency permit and must provide original transcripts to LEAs for inclusion in personnel records. For more information on the types of permits available, LEA responsibilities and reissuance requirements, and reminders, please access the Certification Staffing Policy Guidelines (CSPGs) #13 on emergency permits.

22 Pa Code § 49.32 Exceptional Case Permits enables LEAS to request that PDE issue this permit to an individual after PDE receives evidence of exceptional conditions requiring PDE resolution of the staffing shortage. These permits expire at the end of the school year in which they are issued.

Emergency Certification in Certain Instances (Public School Code of 1949, Article XI, Professional Employees, Section 1109.1) can be used when a school district of the first class finds the supply of certified teachers is inadequate to the educational needs of the LEA's language minority student population, or when the loss of teachers due to early retirement would cause interruption of suitable and essential programs of instruction for these students, superintendents and their respective school boards have discretion to hire individuals without current teaching certificates. However, these individuals must enroll in PDE-approved teacher preparation programs and meet the Pennsylvania certification requirements within a period not to exceed three years.

24 Pa C.S.A. § 8346, (b) Return to School Service During Emergency (Public School Employees' Retirement System Employment Emergency or Shortage of Personnel, Act 5 of 2017) can be used when, in the judgment of the employer, an emergency creates an increase in the work load such that there is serious impairment of service to the public or in the event of a shortage of appropriate subject certified teachers or other personnel LEAs may hire annuitants for a period not to exceed beyond the school year during which the emergency exists. This employment will not cause the annuitant to lose their annuity or distributions if the annuitant meets the conditions set forth in 24 Pa C.S.A. § 8346 (2)(b). The annuitant will not be entitled to earn any credited service. Annuitants, participants receiving retirement distributions, and employers or the commonwealth cannot make contributions to the fund or trust during the course of such employment.

Regardless of the option chosen to alleviate critical staffing shortages, PDE encourages LEAs to speak with their solicitor about any specific employment or service questions related to their use as well as the Act 91 provisions. In the coming weeks, additional guidance will be forthcoming to support school leaders in the implementation of these options. PDE will inform the field through existing modes of communication when this guidance is available.

Please direct any implementation-related questions about Act 91 or existing statutory or regulatory options to PDE's certification resource account,

Pennsylvania's educator shortage has reached dire proportions and we must work collectively to develop solutions to address the various crises affecting our schools across the commonwealth—be they rural, suburban, urban, small, medium, large, or distressed. Act 91 is premised on the concept that we need to make the educator profession more enticing to more individuals, whether they are high school graduates or those seeking to change careers. We also need to welcome back those learners who aspired to enter the educator profession but encountered state and institutional barriers that prevented them from completing their studies.

PDE welcomes your thoughts, ideas, and comments on how we might achieve a vibrant educator pipeline responsive to local needs so that we don't lose the opportunity to make a lasting impact on improving education in our commonwealth.

Noe Ortega, Ph.D. Secretary of Education