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Survey Says: Lawmakers the top reason Michigan teachers are leaving the profession

A new survey puts context to the worsening teacher shortage
Posted at 5:16 PM, Jul 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-15 17:19:58-04

WXMI — A survey conducted by Launch Michigan and the Michigan Education Association is providing a clearer picture of why the state’s teacher shortage is worsening.

The survey, conducted by Emma White Research, canvassed the thoughts of 5,100 state educators from teachers to principals to sports staff. It’s the second survey conducted by Launch and the MEA, the first being conducted in 2019.

The most recent data found the primary reason teachers were fleeing the profession wasn’t COVID-19 or low salaries (although those items were further down on the list), it was a lack of support from lawmakers and policy-crafters. The same reason took the top spot in the 2019 version of the survey as well. Following closely behind this year: excessive workload and lack of respect for the profession.

“The survey results are telling us that [teachers] even perceive that there’s a lack of support from parents and the public,” said Dan Quisenberry, president of the Michigan Association of Public-School Academies, on a Zoom call discussing the results. “Empowering teachers in the classroom ranked roughly the same as educator compensation. Think about that for a second.”

“Teacher retirements are up 44% since August of 2020,” added Paula Herbart, president of the Michigan Education Association. “Too many educators are leaving, and not enough people are following in their footsteps…ultimately we end up with a generation of learners that is unprepared.”

In fact, the survey also found that enrollment in teacher prep programs has decreased 70% in the last eight years. On top of that, around 18,000 Michigan educators are currently eligible for retirement and another 12,000 for early retirement.

“We need to establish the kind of job satisfaction that causes aspiring educators to want to join this profession and stay there because they’re happy with their work,” said Herbart.

As for what teachers want, the survey found more professional training was among the top responses, along with more pay, and more input from educators on policy decisions.

Educator Survey Results by WXMI

FOX 17 reached out to the state’s leading lawmakers on education, seeking comment from the chairs and vice-chairs of the House Committee on Education, the Senate Committee on Education and Career Readiness, and the Appropriations Subcommittee on K-12 and Michigan Department of Education. Only two lawmakers returned our request. Read their comments below:

Teachers and educators recognize that many of our legislators are completely out of touch with the realities of the classroom. For too long the opinion of teachers has been disregarded and the teaching profession has been under attack. Lansing has a long history of making education policy without doing the research first.

That is why I ran for the legislature after being a teacher after 19 years. As a former teacher of the year, I bring a unique perspective, and I am working hard to make sure teachers’ voices are finally heard in the Michigan legislature.

- Sen. Dayna Polehanki
As I taught, I increasingly had to jump through all of the hoops placed in front of me from my district, the Department of Education, and the state… All of that hoop jumping saps the energy from talented teachers who are just trying to do what is best for kids.

Our education world often falls into working in silos, which bring a feeling of aloneness that is detrimental to culture and innovation. As policymakers in education, I have noticed that we consistently seek to to come up with all of the answers and then force educators to do them. This is the backwards approach we have been taking for too long that meets the definition of insanity.

I have been reworking HB 5833 and HB 5834 from last term to create a nonpartisan teacher network that is a structure intended to truly empower teacher voice and bring prestige back to the profession.

- Rep. Brad Paquette, (R) – 78th