Two moms want answers. How can it be that in public schools in this country - kids can go months without a math teacher?
They say the teacher shortage in Detroit is hurting their children. They have heard talk about it in Lansing, but see no solutions being worked out.
"I am worried about if we fail," said Chrishawna Jefferson, a student in eighth grade at Paul Robeson Malcolm X Academy in Detroit.
She says she has not had a math teacher regularly since January. Her math teacher has left the school on Family Medical Leave. It is now April. She will go to a new high school next school year. She doesn't want to fail in math next year because she doesn't have a teacher now.
Her mom and other moms came to the school today for a meeting with school administrators. Parents wanted to know, what's next?
"They came basically saying it is a shortage of not just teachers, but substitute teachers," said Aliya Moore, a concerned mom.
She said she was told the district doesn't have a way right now to fill the vacancy left when her student's teacher went on leave. The school can't even find substitute teachers on a day to day basis, much less a long-term basis. She was told while state money was just made available to keep the schools operating, money is still an issue.
"While the District is actively searching for teachers to fill its approximately 185 vacancies, Paul Robeson is without one 8th grade math teacher," said Chrystal Wilson, DPS Press Secretary. "School leadership is working to provide the necessary coverage for classrooms by redesigning schedules to ensure that every student has a qualified teacher in front of them daily."
Parents say that means teachers at the school are being forced to miss their prep hours, and randomly fill in as a math teacher on some days. On other days a paraprofessional without a teaching certificate fills in. On other days a substitute is filling in.
"While our teacher vacancies are an unfortunate reality, we thank our current staff for their dedication to our students, as they have time and time again sacrificed in order to ensure that our students receive instruction," said Wilson.
Parents say in order for their kids to learn, they feel a consistent instructor able to put together a curriculum and follow it is needed, preferably a certified teacher. The random rotating substitutes are not able to be effective.
"I just want to see our 8th graders succeed, because they need to be ready for high school,and right now without math they won’t be ready," said Melissa Redman, another concerned mom.
State law calls on schools to provide certified teachers or face fines. The fines amount to the daily pay of the uncertified teacher. The purpose of the fine is to create an incentive for schools to pay for a certified teacher. Often the fines are not issued. The Department of Education has said fining a financially struggling district doesn’t help the situation.
Parents have heard lawmakers talk about allowing uncertified teachers to work in Detroit to ease the shortage. Parents say that's not going to solve the problem. Substitutes are not required to have certification. The district can't find substitutes.
"DPS doesn’t have competitive pay," said Moore. "So you’re asking someone to come in for pennies."