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Southern York County School District will begin using a program that allows college students studying education to work as substitute teachers in the district.

Act 86 allows school districts to hire students as substitute teachers for the district, as long as they are enrolled in an accredited Pennsylvania college or university pursuing a teacher certification.

Through the act, which was passed last July as a school code bill, students who are in their post-60-credits phase of their coursework can work up to 20 days per school year as a paid substitute teacher. U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker, formerly a state senator for Lancaster, championed the bill.

According to a news release from Southern York County, the act allows students majoring in education the opportunity to get hands-on experience. It also helps local school districts alleviate the shortage of substitute teachers, which can severely disrupt a school.

Nicole Reigelman, press secretary and communications director for the state Department of Education, has said in the past there is a decrease both in the number of students majoring in education and graduates obtaining teaching certificates.

There was a slight spike in the number of teaching certificates awarded in 2012-13 — because of a change in certifications, Reigelman explained — but overall there has been a decrease in the number of certificates awarded.

The number of students enrolled in bachelor's degree programs in education has decreased by 55 percent in the past 20 years, Reigelman said. The number of students actually graduating from education programs has decreased by 38.26 percent since 2000, and the number of people obtaining teaching certificates dropped 57.9 percent from 2010-11 to  2014-15, the most recent year for which data is available.

Superintendents in the past have commented on a substitute teacher shortage specifically. York Suburban School District Superintendent Shelly Merkle has said that is where her district feels the biggest impact of the teacher shortage.

"Every district is feeling the teacher shortage, but day to day we're feeling the substitute teacher shortage," she said in past interviews. "It puts even more pressure on teachers."

Teachers may have to teach courses they wouldn't typically because of a lack of teachers, she said, or classes may need to combine at lower grade levels. Though she said this isn't happening in York Suburban School District, she knows it's happening elsewhere.

To be a substitute teacher in a district, an individual doesn't even need to have an education degree. Anyone with a bachelor's degree can become a substitute teacher for a local district, but Act 86 applies specifically to students who have not yet graduated.

Those with a bachelor's degree who are interested in becoming a substitute teacher should contact their individual school district for more info. Students interested in becoming a substitute teacher at Southern York County School District should contact Tracey Kerr, the district's human resources coordinator, at 717-235-4811, ext. 7205.

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