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State Senate working on teacher shortage bill

Posted at 7:10 PM, Nov 30, 2015

7 Action News told you last week about legislation that has been in the works since last year that would help ease the shortage of teachers impacting kids and schools across the state.

There are schools that are still unable to fill vacant teaching positions, leaving kids without certified or even regular substitute teachers instructing them. 

House Bill 4059 would allow retired teachers to take jobs under limited conditions in subject areas with a critical shortage, without sacrificing their pensions and health benefits. 

The question is, when are lawmakers going to address it? 7 Action News went to the offices of senators on Monday to find out why it hasn’t been moved forward.  We got word late this afternoon it is on the agenda to be worked on Tuesday.  

The House of Representatives passed the bill in March.  Since then, 280 days have passed. Though the Senate Education committee approved it, the full Senate hasn’t

“We need to solve this problem,” said State Superintendent of Schools Brian Whiston of the teacher shortage.

Whist says the shortage is real and getting worse. 

The hardest hit district is Detroit, where hundreds of kids are in classes without certified teachers.

“There’s a lot of talk about struggling schools in Detroit, but until we solve this problem we are not going to solve performance. It is part of the major issue that needs to be addressed,” said Whiston.

Whiston supports the passage of House Bill 4059. 

“You can hire retired teachers, and let them go back in and teach. Not only are they experienced and can do it successfully, but they can solve our problem, temporarily,” said Whiston. 

He says it is only one part of a solution.  He says the state needs to create incentives to bring qualified teachers to urban districts where there are so many vacancies.

“All of us are frustrated. We don’t want to see this happen to kids. We’d like to create a salary structure that is attractive to make people go into education,” said Whiston.

State Senator Patrick Colbeck is on the senate committee that approved it the bill - sending it to the full senate.  He says he hopes and believes it will be approved before the end of the year.  His concern is that it is only a temporary fix. He says he is working on legislation that would make it easier for professionals to transition into teaching.

There is no vocal opposition to the bill in Lansing as of yet. 

7 Action News will continue to cover the progress of this legislation.  If there is an issue we should be covering impacting your child’s education e-mail us at fixmyschool@wxyz.com