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Teacher and Administrator Certification Reminder
As the school year kicks off, school officials must ensure that their teachers and administrators are properly certificated. After a lull during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) has resumed issuing state aid penalties to schools that employ uncertificated teachers and administrators. Executive orders and legislative amendments that relaxed teacher and administrator certification requirements during the pandemic have expired or been rescinded including the legislative provision that allowed substitute teachers to teach without a teaching certificate or substitute teacher permit, which expired on June 30, 2022.
Subject to limited exceptions, Revised School Code (RSC) Section 1233 prohibits school districts and ISDs from allowing a person without a valid teaching certificate to teach at a school. A single RSC Section 1233 violation is subject to two potential state aid penalties: one equal to 50% of the teacher’s salary during the noncertification period and a second penalty equal to the FTE foundation allowance provided for the students taught by the teacher during that period.
RSC Section 1246, as interpreted by MDE, generally prohibits a school from employing a person without an administrator certification as “a superintendent, principal, assistant principal, or other person whose primary responsibility is administering instructional programs.” The phrase “whose primary responsibility is administering instructional programs” is not defined by law, but an MDE memo states that MDE considers a person to have such responsibility if the person has “final or executive decision-making responsibility” in at least one of the following areas:
- oversight of school improvement plan design or implementation,
- oversight of instructional policies,
- executive-level reporting on academic progress to a governing authority, or
- supervision and evaluation of direct reports responsible for instruction.
The MDE memo stresses that a person who has “final or executive decision-making responsibility” is distinct from a person who assists a decision-maker but does not have “the final or executive responsibility for those decisions.” The memo is available here:
A school that employs an administrator in violation of RSC Section 1246 is subject to only one state aid penalty equal to 50% of the administrator’s salary during the noncertification period.
The salary-based state aid penalty for the employment of a noncertificated teacher or administrator may increase unless remedied promptly. Under State School Aid Act (SSAA) Section 163(2), if MDE notifies a school that it is employing a noncertificated teacher or administrator and the school continues to employ that person without a certificate or other MDE approval 10 business days after receiving the MDE notice, then the salary penalty is increased to 100% of the person’s salary for any portion of the noncertification period that extends beyond those 10 business days. Additionally, a school official who knowingly continues to employ such an individual after receiving the MDE notice is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of $1,500 for each incident. Noncertificated employment is permitted, however, if MDE issues the school a substitute teacher or administrator permit.
SSAA Section 163(4), which was added in 2021, allows the State Superintendent to waive a salary-based state aid penalty if the State Superintendent determines that the school could not obtain a substitute permit due to “unusual and extenuating circumstances resulting from conditions not within the control of school authorities.” Because such a waiver is discretionary and is based on the particular circumstances, schools should never assume that they will be granted a waiver in any particular case.
School officials should check teacher and administrator certifications periodically to ensure that they are valid. We recommend that schools create a chart that tracks the status of teacher and school administrator certifications. Failure to monitor certifications may result in hefty state aid penalties. Certifications can be verified using MDE’s Michigan Online Educator Certification System, which is available here: