Michigan schools trying new programs to find teachers

Published: Dec. 7, 2022 at 6:16 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Schools across the country, including in Mid-Michigan, are desperately trying to find new teachers.

Studies show more than half of public schools nationwide are understaffed. Many districts across Mid-Michigan have teaching positions posted, and we’re nearly halfway through the school year.

Schools in every Mid-Michigan county are looking for teachers.

As of Wednesday, the Lansing School District had by far the most teaching positions posted with 38 openings, Jackson Public Schools had seven, Charlotte Public Schools had four openings, Hillsdale Community Schools was looking for three teachers and St. Johns only needed one.

The state is working on several ways to try and get more teachers. That includes a new apprenticeship program that would allow people, even without a college degree, to teach while becoming certified teachers.

The Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, told News 10 there are not enough people wanting to work for schools. It said that’s because of things like low pay and the politics surrounding what is taught. That has schools doing whatever it can to get people in the classroom.

“We can’t have any classes without a teacher,” said Mandy Stewart, Charlotte Public Schools superintendent.

Stewart said she has fewer and fewer people applying for teaching jobs.

It’s been heading this way for years since enrollment at teaching programs in Michigan dropped more than 60% since 2008. And it’s only gotten worse since the pandemic hit.

“During a virtual shutdown there were questions about whether if we would need all of our positions with kids maybe preferring to go to at-home learning,” said Stewart.

But kids are back in the classroom and schools are adding more spots, especially in mental health services and special education. And those are among the hardest people to find.

“At the end of the day it’s all about helping to secure a brighter future for our kids,” said Thomas Morgan, Michigan Education Association spokesman.

One solution many intermediate school districts is working towards is an apprenticeship program allowing people to work in the program while working on their certification.

Ingham County I.S.D. is one of the 39 I.S.D.s in the “Talent Together” program.

“In the apprenticeship, you are going to be in the field, you’re going to be working with kids. You can do this, be here, have a job and we’re going to find ways to fill in college classes around that,” said Jason Mellema, Ingham County Intermediate School District superintendent.

Stewart said she’s not worried about teachers who go through programs like this being less qualified than those who take traditional teaching classes.

“I think the job experience that some of the people enrolled in alternative programs. They are working hard in their program, they’re just allowed to teach earlier,” said Stewart.

Even with the many jobs posted, that doesn’t mean classrooms are empty. Many districts use long-term substitute teachers until they can find a full-time teacher. The goal is still to have a permanently certified teacher in every classroom.

The Michigan Department of Education still needs to approve the “Talent Together” program.

There is $175 million in the state budget for programs like this.

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