November 9, 2021

Addressing the Teacher Shortage Critical to the State’s Public Schools

Michigan Department of Education Press Release LANSING – Addressing the state’s teacher shortage is the most urgent challenge facing Michigan public schools and many schools across the nation, State Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice told the State Board of Education today.

Dr. Rice said that Michigan’s schools and students require a significant investment to address the systemic challenges causing the teacher shortage. An investment of $300 million to $500 million over five years is the first step to recruiting and retaining sufficient numbers of high-quality educators.

While all eight goals of the state’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan are important, Dr. Rice said, addressing the teacher shortage has become the most urgent as districts across the state are experiencing critical staffing demands, exacerbated by the pandemic. Meeting the teacher shortage challenge and the other goals of the state’s Top 10 Strategic Education Plan requires a collective effort and partnership of stakeholders across the state.

During his presentation, Dr. Rice said that there has been a rising bipartisan consciousness in Michigan regarding the importance of funding pre-school; funding and addressing children’s mental health needs in schools; and beginning to address the persistent underfunding of Michigan public schools. There has also been a rising bipartisan consciousness regarding the acknowledgement of the teacher shortage in Michigan.

“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.

Dr. Rice outlined to the State Board of Education several initiatives on which local school districts and the state are working. At the same time, though, he indicated that teacher recruitment and retention demanded a major investment by the state legislature at this time.

MDE has initiated the Welcome Back Proud Michigan Educator program to encourage former educators to come back to the profession—providing waivers to perceived obstacles to become re-certified as teachers.

In the spring, MDE sent tens of thousands of postcards to educators with expired certificates. More than 1,100 formerly certificated teachers have shared their contact information to be connected with interested school districts. Waiver applications have been submitted by 161 local school districts for 228 eligible educators.

In October, MDE sent over 35,000 letters to educators with valid certificates who are currently not teaching in a public school. Over 2,000 educators with valid certificates accessed the survey that was included in the letter and 1,111 have provided an email address to be contacted by districts.

MDE also approved two district-level alternative teacher certification programs to support aspiring teachers, including para-educators and other support staff members in earning initial teacher certification. There are a total of 68 new teacher candidates in the two programs that focus on developing teachers of other ethnicities.

The legislature and governor have worked together to fund an initial investment of $1.67 million for local districts to begin Grow Your Own programs to encourage current school support staff and high school students to explore careers in teaching. Much more is required.

Other teacher shortage strategies that require consideration and support from the state legislature and executive office 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.

Overall, Dr. Rice told the State Board of Education that the state has seen progress in early childhood education; social and emotional learning; children’s mental health; secondary school programming, including career and technical education; graduation rate, and post-secondary attainment.