Bill passage could ease teacher shortage

Posted at 7:24 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 19:24:00-05

7 Action News is working to fix your schools and we're getting results. For 280 days state senators sat on a critical bill that could help ease the teacher shortage impacting kids around our state.Then we brought light to it. On Tuesday, the Senate took action.

"Thank you,” said Rep. Holly Hughes,  (R- Muskegon County). "I appreciate you doing that. Make sure the Senate knows how important this is to our kids.”

Rep. Hughes introduced House Bill 4059 in January. It would allow retired teachers to take jobs as teachers when there is a critical shortage without losing their retirement benefits. It passed in the House in March with bi-partisan support.

“Retired teachers, they can be a very valuable resource for school districts facing tremendous shortage,” said Rep. Charles Brunner, (D-Bay City).

It is a valuable resource that school districts haven’t been able to take advantage of because the bill was stuck in the Senate. Instead, in too many cases, kids have been forced into classes with no certified teacher at all.

Then today, the Senate voted on House Bill 4059.  It passed unanimously.

Senator Patrick Colbeck says he has been for it for months. “We don’t want to impede educational opportunities for our kids,” said Sen. Patrick Colbeck, (R-7th District) who says he has supported the bill for months. "That is what you see with unanimous passage. Everybody is for getting government out as a road block when it comes to a quality education.”

Now that the bill has passed in the Senate it has to go back before the House for a vote due to an amendment.  Lawmakers in the House say they won’t delay taking action.

“I am confident you don’t have to worry,” said Rep. Hughes. “It is going to go through tomorrow in concurrence, and I believe we will get 100% vote on it. Anybody that doesn’t vote for this is voting against kids.”

This bill is only a small part of the solution to the teacher shortage in Michigan.

Sen. Colbeck says he is working on legislation that would make it easier for people with professional experience to become certified teachers, especially in skilled trades. “I just want to make sure we make it as easy as possible to get in front of the classroom, as long as they have the skills to instruct our kids,” said Colbeck.

He says given the budget, increasing teacher pay isn’t the answer.

“Some of the areas hardest hit are in Detroit Public Schools. There are a lot of people who want to give back there. They aren’t doing it for a paycheck, but because it is the right thing to do,” said Colbeck.

A mom from Pontiac who just earned a degree in teaching has a different take. She knows the numbers of students studying teaching is decreasing, and believes she knows why.

“I know when I was going though my program, teachers don’t make enough money. People were dropping out because of teacher pay,” said Renee Caldwell.

“Our starting wages are a problem throughout the state,” said Brian Whiston, State Superintendent of Schools.

Whist says he is lobbying lawmakers, asking for an incentive program. The incentives would come in the form of pay and support.

“We ought to take teachers who are successful and getting high ratings on their evaluations, and give them an incentive to work in struggling districts,” said Whiston.

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