(WXYZ) — Addressing Michigan's critical shortage of teachers is the most urgent challenge facing public schools in the state, according to State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice.
Dr. Rice said on Tuesday that Michigan schools and students require a significant investment in retaining and recruiting teachers.
Over five years, an investment of $300 million to $500 million is the first step to keep and recruit quality educators.
Out of the Top 10 Strategic Education Plan, Dr. Rice says the teacher shortage is the most urgent issue as districts grapple with critical staffing demands which were in part caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With this raised consciousness needs to come a raised consciousness among state policymakers of the need to help fund efforts to recruit and retain teachers and address these issues,” Dr. Rice said.
“We have begun to make progress with significant investments in early childhood learning, literacy, children’s mental health, and school funding. That said, we need to work to fund major teacher recruitment and retention efforts,” he said.
In a presentation to the State Board of Education, Dr. Rice outlined several initiatives that are working in districts and in schools. However, he emphasized that recruitment and retention demands a major investment by the state legislature.
Back in October, the Michigan Department of Education sent more than 35,000 letters to educators who left the profession encouraging them to return.
Dr. Rice also outlined other teacher shortage strategies that require consideration and support from the state legislature and executive office which include:
- Tuition and other expense reimbursement for current college students who make a commitment to pursue teaching.
- Loan repayment for recent college graduates who commit to careers in education and for current teachers who are working to pay off college loans.
- Scholarships for high school seniors who aspire to and commit to a career in teaching. States as close as Indiana have these sorts of programs.
- Reviving and strengthening the teacher preparation pipeline in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula where school districts face unique limitations to the preparation of teacher candidates.
- Supporting the mentoring of new teachers through grants to local school districts to provide release time and stipends to mentors, development of virtual curriculum and training, and regional technical assistance.
- Easing restrictions on accepting teacher licenses from other states to help recruit and retain quality teachers in Michigan. In 2019-20, Michigan certified 1,160 out-of-state candidates. More can be done legislatively to provide regulatory relief in this area.
- Supporting a return to the profession for individuals who completed preparation programs but did not obtain a credential.
- Expanding eligibility for child care to individuals enrolled in teacher preparation programs.
- Providing tuition reimbursement for the reading course requirement.
- Making available grants to districts to develop programs for recruiting students in grades 6-12 into teaching.
- Providing stipends to student teachers to relocate and pay for housing in high-needs school districts for up to one year.