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Teacher and children playing with bubbles.

Teacher and children playing with bubbles.

Child care substitutes are in short supply. A new Colorado law could make them a little easier to find.

A bill approved by the state Senate and poised for smooth passage through the House would make it easier for child care centers to staff their classrooms when regular teachers are absent.

The bill would create a new kind of child care license for agencies that place substitute teachers at child care centers. It would also require those agencies to conduct background checks on each substitute it places. Currently, the responsibility for conducting background checks falls to individual child care centers.

In a field with strict student-teacher ratio rules and a chronic shortage of qualified teachers, the bill could help address one small piece of the problem. Supporters say it would streamline the process for credentialing substitute teachers and clear the way for groups, such as the state’s 34 early childhood councils, to establish pools of substitute teachers for local child care programs. Such pools are among the initiatives prescribed in the state’s three-year plan to support the early childhood workforce.

Nicole Riehl, director of programs and development at Denver’s Early Childhood Council, said some large child care providers require 10 substitutes a day but often find only about a third of what they need. Such gaps can mean center administrators have to step away from other duties to cover classrooms or that classroom teachers lose out on opportunities to attend trainings or conferences.

The bill passed on a voice vote in the House on Monday and while it still faces one final vote there, it appears nearly certain to pass. If signed by the governor, the new law would take effect in August.