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‘We're at a crisis in education:’ MEA says teacher shortage is severe

Posted at 7:22 PM, Feb 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-14 19:57:43-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The teacher shortage in Michigan is a crisis, said Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association. So the organization, which represents 120,000 educators, held a press conference Monday morning to address the growing issue.

“This survey proves what we already knew: Michigan teachers support staff and other public school employees are at a breaking point,” Herbart said during the virtual presser. “The educator shortage is having a daily impact on students and educators alike. This is adding to an already overwhelming pressure caused by meeting student's academic, social, and emotional needs.”

Emma White of Emma White Research conducted the survey, in which she asked 2,600 Michigan school employees about job satisfaction and retention, first back in August of 2021 and then in January 2022.

“We see a pretty dramatic drop in educators job satisfaction since August, going from 60%, saying that they're satisfied very or somewhat satisfied with their job to less than half in the period of six months,” White said. “When we did this in August, educators were already feeling quite unhappy with conditions facing educators and we've seen that dissatisfaction grow as well.”

She continued to say that not many teachers are sticking around in the industry. The survey revealed that a third plan to leave within the next few years, and that’s due to a number of reasons. Around 67 percent said that they were ‘extremely concerned’ about shortages of teachers and other staff.

“They're also worried about student behavioral issues and mental health,” White said. “They're worried about their own paying benefits. They're worried about attacks on educators over things like masking, and curriculum issues.”

She added that they were worried about school funding, standardized testing, classes, gun violence, school safety, COVID-19, and lack of involvement from parents.

“And one that is not financial at all, which is replacing Michigan's teacher evaluation system with one that is more effective and fair,” White said. “We've known for a while that one of the things driving dissatisfaction has been how that process works.”

Herbart reiterated her support for Gov. Whitmer’s budget plan, which prioritizes teacher retention and satisfaction, she said. A part of the budget would be two-year bonuses for all workers in the school system, including bus drivers, school safety workers, health service workers and para-educators.

It was mentioned that the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee opposed it. However, Herbart reiterated that the bonuses are needed, along with an increase in salaries, and signing bonuses.

“We're at a crisis in education in a way that we're not in a crisis and other education. This is about ensuring that we have an educated citizenry,” Herbart said. “And in order to do that we need teachers in classrooms. We have underfunded education for the past 25 years. This governor has made this a strong priority. And one of the things that she's doing is in a crisis, you attack the heavy bleeding first and that’s where we’re at”