Bakersfield City School District trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to apply for a state waiver that would extend the length of time a substitute could teach in a classroom – the first step in what could become a precedent-setting legal battle with Sacramento.

Substitutes can teach in classrooms for 30 days, then state education code requires they be shuffled to another classroom. The waiver would allow substitutes to stay in classrooms indefinitely – something district leaders deem essential amid a punishing teacher shortage.

“I just think this is a great idea. We’re really excited because this is the next step,” BCSD Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Diane Cox said. “As early as tomorrow we’ll be submitting this to the state board of education.”

The item was passed to a roar of applause from teachers and parents attending Tuesday’s meeting.

BCSD has gathered endorsements from Bakersfield Elementary Teachers Association and the California School Employees Association, Cox said. It has also lined up lobbyists with the Association of California School Administrators, gearing up for what seems imminent: a denial of the waiver request from the state board of education.

“We’re assembling a big team,” Cox said.

District leaders have said that if the state denies the waiver, they would fight to introduce legislation that would change the law, or challenge the state with a lawsuit.

While some critics might view granting substitutes an indefinite period of time in a classroom as a slippery slope that could lead to some districts using it as a way to avoid hiring fully-certificated staff members, Cox said it won’t happen at BCSD.

Her school is fully staffed, she said, and there are no rotating subs filling in classrooms. District leaders have also made assurances to BETA that full-time substitutes would never supplant fully-certificated teachers.

“We would never do that,” Cox said. “That wouldn’t be good for the students.”

Harold Pierce covers education and health for The Californian. He can be reached at 661-395-7404. Follow him on Twitter @RoldyPierce

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