Click for audio Private Solutions to the Public School Teacher Shortage (RealAudio)

If you owned a business and were shorthanded—but couldn't find a permanent replacement quickly enough—you'd probably call someone like Kelly Services. 

No, this is not an advertisement for probably the most successful temp agency in the world.  It's a story about our education system.  It's suffering from a shortage of substitute teachers. But until recently, your typical public school superintendent wouldn't have dreamed of turning to the private sector for help. 

Well, that's changing.  School districts across Michigan are now calling Kelly Services for substitute teachers.  The Troy-based agency has set up what it calls the Kelly Educational Staffing program.  Kelly Services will now advertise open positions in both public and private schools, interview applicants, and train substitute teachers for grades K through 12. 

Now, 20 years or so ago, when privatization was still a dirty word to educators, a hue and cry would have gone up:  What about their qualifications?  Who will make sure these substitutes are qualified? 

The answer has always been:  If a business fails, it doesn't survive.  Kelly Educational Staffing must deliver qualified substitute teachers or it will lose business to someone else.  

That's the kind of competition public schools could use more of.  

For the Mackinac Center, I'm Catherine Martin.