Michigan school districts struggle with growing teacher shortage

Teachers leaving classrooms faster than they can be replaced

DETROIT – There is a growing teacher shortage in the State of Michigan. New research indicates we are running out of time to find solutions. Now Michigan’s 1.5 million students are headed into a crisis.

“Schools are having trouble attracting teachers and they’re having trouble keeping the teachers who they are able to attract,” said Koby Levin of Chalkbeat Detroit, a nonprofit news organization covering education in the city and communities across the United States.

The trend is teachers are leaving classrooms faster than they can be replaced.

“Since August the retirements of teachers in the middle of the school year is up 44 percent compared to the middle of the school year retirements during the 2019 and 2020 school year. There’s a significant rise in the number of teachers who just quit and left the classroom in the middle of the school year for a variety of reasons,” said Chad Livengood, a senior editor covering public policy with Crain’s Detroit Business.

The districts likely to suffer more are those already suffering the most. That includes poor and urban school districts and rural school systems, according to joint research conducted by Chalkbeat and Crain’s Detroit Business.

“Teachers are burning out for a lack of support. And in many cases because they don’t feel that they have the community at school, the aides the paraprofessionals, social workers who are able to back up their work, and allow them to get on with the fundamental task that they’re given which is to connect with students and facilitate student learning,” said Levin.

Owen Bondono is the 2020-2021 Michigan Teacher of the Year who knows firsthand why many teachers are leaving some school districts, because he was one of them.

Bondono is currently a teacher at Oak Park High School. He left a school mid-year in the spring of 2016. Bondono left that school for his current job in Oak Park.

“It had a lot less to do with money and a lot more to do with support. I was in a building where I felt like I was not supported as a professional, where I was being asked to do so many different tasks and wear so many different hats that I would work from the moment I woke up to the moment I passed out on my couch because I was still working. Then I would restart the cycle the next day. I was having breakdowns in the classrooms after my kids left thinking, if this is what education is, it is not for me,” said Bondono.

And because Bondono’s story is not unique it creates more of a problem for districts that likely have more diversity and fewer resources.

While this isn’t a new problem, it is a problem in which the can has been kicked down the road for many years. Research shows in the State of Michigan we are out of road.

There is some indication federal COVID dollars are being infused into some of Michigan’s poorer districts. But the question remains of whether it will be enough.

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