Teachers from across Michigan have put forward ideas they have to improve the education profession with the goal of attracting more people to the field in a wake of educator shortages in classrooms.
This project was conducted in partnership with the Michigan Education Association, American Federation of Teachers Michigan, and the Middle Cities Education Association. Public Policy Associates, Inc. conducted a series of listening sessions to get a feel for where the frustrations are with teachers.
The report that came out of five listening sessions with 120 public teachers from across the state identified several key reasons people consider leaving the profession: inadequate compensation, student loan debt and a lack of policy-making input.
Stefanie Sedlar, a special education teacher for Mount Pleasant Public Schools, said when she graduate college she had more than $100,000 in student loan debt. She said she was promised some of that would be forgiven through a loan forgiveness program, but that hasn’t happened yet.
“I’ve had to put raising a family on hold to make ends meet. I love my kids, and forgiveness of my student loans will help me continue to serve them for the foreseeable future,” Sedlar said.
When it comes to teacher input, there is movement. In 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whtimer formed an educator advisory commission to provide teachers the chance to weigh in on and recommend legislation involving the education system in Michigan.
Heather Gauck, a special education public school teacher in Grand Rapids Public Schools, said lawmakers need to listen to the people inside the classrooms every day making decisions.
“We know our kids and the challenges they face best. It’s time for state lawmakers to take time to listen to frontline educators like myself before making polices that impact the future of our kids,” Gauck said.
Teachers said they took issue with the number of mandatory tests students are taking, according to the report. Donna Roark, assistant superintendent of personnel for Niles Community Schools, said lawmakers rarely seek input from teachers in the classroom, and that should change.
“Instead, our educators only continue to receive new and unrealistic requirements that make it harder for them to help students succeed. We must begin making our educators part of the discussion to continue attracting new, enthusiastic teachers to our classrooms,” Roark said.
The report also detailed how the challenges facing the educations system impacts teachers of color disproportionately. To correct that, the report indicated handling recruitment and home-grown solutions geared toward the communities impacted.