Additional state funding for education comes amid disinterest in the teaching profession

The teacher shortage has been felt since before the Covid pandemic – and now, even more so.

“Covid has really accelerated things in terms of the impact of the teacher shortage, so we’re feeling it much, much more than in 2018,” said Maysam Alie-Bazzi.

More than three years into the pandemic and many schools are still struggling to get enough teachers in classrooms. The number of resignations is up, the number of retentions is down and the hiring climate is becoming more and more competitive.

Take the Dearborn School District for example.

“Everyone who comes through our door has interviewed other districts, telling you exactly what experience they have and what they hope to gain,” said Alie-Bazzi, executive director of personnel and student services.

“Most of our teachers are between elderly parents and young children and so the demands of the profession have continued to increase….”

The shortage of educators in Michigan and across the country has been an ongoing challenge, and that includes substitute teachers.

The reality is that, even before the emergence of COVID-19, there was growing disinterest in the teaching profession.

“In the past, you would have had 90 students – let’s say education students, becoming teachers at a local university,” she said. “And now 90 students per semester, now you see about 20 students per semester.”

So what are you doing? Dearborn schools have strengthened incentives for those who want to become teachers. For example, partnering with local colleges and universities to help students complete their education, easing their financial burden.

But even that is not enough.

“By the time they’re ready to graduate, they finish their student teaching experience, they already have several job offers on the table,” she said.

A saving grace? Substitute teachers. Ali-Bazzi says the long-term replacements have helped keep programs on track. However, it’s not cheap – everyone earns around $200 a day in the district.

“We need to train them, not just to teach, but to teach virtually,” she said. “Our replacement fill rate is around 98%, which is excellent. There were times during Covid when it was as low as 70.”

Even with a high fill rate, the need for more resources continues. Specialists, counsellors, nurses and administrators. It’s a challenge.

It’s a government that Gretchen Whitmer is aware of, which is why the state got new funding — $575 million to be exact, to help schools “build their own programs.”

“They will pay $10,000 of their tuition if they attend a teaching certification program,” Alie-Bazzi said. “And so we’re definitely capitalizing on that right now.”

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