Iowa Senate Passes Bill to Allow Unpaid Volunteer Substitute Teachers

Screenshot from Iowa Senate stream

By Nikoel Hytrek

February 28, 2022

There’s a new potential solution for Iowa’s shortage of substitute teachers: unpaid volunteers.

The Iowa Senate passed a bill Monday to allow school districts to accept volunteer substitute teachers to help with the shortage of paid teachers and substitutes in the state.

The bill, Senate File 2356, is simple. People with substitute licenses or authorizations who are willing to work without pay to fill staffing shortages at Iowa schools can be brought on by school districts as long as they meet those requirements and pass the same background checks other school employees do.

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Sen. Amy Sinclair (R-Allerton) introduced the bill earlier this year. She explained how a constituent of hers requested her help so he could legitimately volunteer at his child’s school.

“This bill came out of my district with a friend and constituent of mine who works for a large corporation and his corporation offers him paid time off (PTO) for volunteer services,” she said during a meeting of the education committee earlier in February.

“He went and became a certified substitute teacher because he wanted to volunteer in his kid’s school and fill a role that we all know is lacking right now. We have a need for substitute teachers and what he found out when he tried to work at his student’s school was that he could not actually volunteer so he could not actually use his volunteer PTO,” Sinclair continued. “And so this bill will allow the school to engage in volunteer substitute teachers with appropriate individuals and it will resolve the issue of it being coerced from staff.”

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In Iowa, substitute licenses require a person to have a teaching license or be qualified to have one. With this, they can teach any subject at any grade level and serve for up to 90 days. They can’t fill open teaching positions.

Substitute authorizations require an associate’s degree or 60 semester hours and for the person to take a course. These substitutes are also able to teach any subject and grade, but they can only serve for 10 days in a row in a 30-day period. They also can’t fill open teaching positions.

The bill passed 38-7, without comment from either Democrats or Republicans. It moves to the Iowa House.

Those who voted no include Sens. Joe Bolkcom (D-Iowa City), Claire Celsi (D-Des Moines), Pam Jochum (D-Dubuque), Janet Peterson (D-Des Moines), Jackie Smith (D-Sioux City), Sarah Trone Garriott (D-Windsor Heights), and Zach Wahls (D-Coralville).


Nikoel Hytrek

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  • Nikoel Hytrek

    Nikoel Hytrek is Iowa Starting Line’s longest-serving reporter. She covers LGBTQ issues, abortion rights and all topics of interest to Iowans. Her biggest goal is to help connect the dots between policy and people’s real lives. If you have story ideas or tips, send them over to [email protected].



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