Michigan schools are trying new programs to find teachers

LANSING, Mich. (WILX) — Schools across the country, including in Mid-Michigan, are desperately trying to find new teachers.

Studies show that more than half of the country’s public schools are understaffed. Many districts in Mid-Michigan have teaching positions posted, and we’re almost halfway through the school year.

Schools in every county in Mid-Michigan are looking for teachers.

As of Wednesday, Lansing School District had by far the most teaching positions posted with 38 openings, Jackson Public Schools had seven, Charlotte Public Schools had four openings, Hillsdale Community Schools was looking for three teachers and St. Johns only needed one.

The state is working on several ways to try to get more teachers. This includes a new apprenticeship program that would allow people, even without a college degree, to teach while becoming certified teachers.

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, told News 10 that there aren’t enough people willing to work for the schools. He said it was because of things like low pay and the politics surrounding what is taught. It forces schools to do everything they can to bring people into the classroom.

“We can’t have classes without a teacher,” said Charlotte Public Schools superintendent Mandy Stewart.

Stewart said she had fewer and fewer people applying for teaching jobs.

It’s been years since enrollment in Michigan’s education programs has fallen more than 60% since 2008. And it’s only gotten worse since the pandemic hit.

“During a virtual shutdown, there was some discussion about whether we would need all of our positions with kids perhaps preferring to go to home learning,” Stewart said.

But children are back in the classroom and schools are adding more places, especially in mental health services and special education. And these are some of the hardest people to find.

“Ultimately, it’s about helping to secure a better future for our children,” said Thomas Morgan, spokesman for the Michigan Education Association.

One solution that many middle school districts are working towards is an apprenticeship program that allows people to work in the program while working on their certification.

Ingham County ISD is one of 39 ISDs in the “Talent Together” program.

“In the apprenticeship, you are going to be in the field, you are going to work with children. You can do it, be here, have a job, and we’re going to find ways to fill college classes around it,” said Jason Mellema, superintendent of the Ingham County Middle School District.

Stewart said she’s not worried that teachers taking programs like this are less qualified than those taking traditional teaching courses.

“I think the professional experience that some people have enrolled in alternative programs. They work hard in their curriculum, they’re just allowed to teach earlier,” Stewart said.

Even with the many jobs posted, that doesn’t mean the classrooms are empty. Many districts use long-term substitute teachers until they can find a full-time teacher. The goal is always to have a permanently certified teacher in each class.

The Michigan Department of Education has yet to approve the “Talent Together” program.

There is $175 million in the state budget for programs like this.

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