Teacher Certification: Part 7—Substitute

May 17, 2021 • Karen Dooley

Teacher Certification: Part 7—Substitute

School districts struggle each year to fill teacher vacancies, and unfortunately, often employ substitutes when they cannot secure certified teachers.

Assigning a substitute to a vacant teaching position should be the last resort. When a substitute is assigned as a teacher, Texas Education Code (TEC) §21.003 requires the individual to hold an appropriate certificate or permit.


A substitute is a type of temporary employee. Temporary employment suggests a definite start and end date and is not open-ended or indefinite. Teacher Retirement System (TRS) defines substitute as a person who serves on a temporary basis in place of a current employee. On the other hand, a regular employee is employed for four and one-half months or more, for one-half time or more, and paid at a rate comparable to other persons employed by the employer in similar positions during the school year.

Continued shortage

The 2020–2021 school year shows no improvement in filling teacher vacancies. The most critical shortages are bilingual and English as a second language (ESL), career and technical education (CTE), special education, science, and math. As student enrollment grows across the state and retirements and resignations occur, teacher vacancies are increasing in an environment where fewer college students pursue teacher certification. Districts rely heavily on alternative certification programs (ACP) and post-baccalaureate programs to fill the voids.

Creative ideas

Long-term fixes to teacher shortages are always in the works including a presidential initiative to increase teacher pay across the nation, the Teacher Incentive Allotment (TIA) from House Bill 3 (HB 3) passed in the 86th Texas Legislature to prioritize teaching in high-need areas and rural districts, and school district partnerships between colleges and universities to build the teacher pipeline.

More qualified teachers are needed now. Below are some creative ideas to fill immediate vacancies other than hiring a substitute.

  • Evaluate education and background of current non-teaching staff, including substitutes, to determine certification possibilities.
  • Determine an opportunity to transfer a current certified teacher into a critical shortage area and fill the vacancy of the easier to fill position.
  • Use certification and permit opportunities as outlined in Seven Ways to Qualify an Uncertified Teacher.
  • Make an investment in current staff by financially supporting payment for education, certification exams, and certification fees.
  • Network with parents and the community to identify potential educators.


Texas is a growing state and with that growth comes an increase in student enrollment and the need for more certified teachers. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) continues to offer support to school districts through resources and educator certification help desk support. Phone support also is available at 512.936.8400 by selecting option 2 for educator certification, option 3 for fingerprinting, and option 5 for educator preparation programs. Certification testing questions may be answered by dialing TEA at 512.463.9039.

Karen Dooley is a senior HR consultant at TASB HR Services. Send Karen an email at karen.dooley@tasb.org.

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Tagged: Certification, Employment, Hiring, "Teacher certification"