Additional state education funding comes amid disinterest in teaching profession

The teacher shortage has been felt since before the Covid pandemic - and now, even more so.

"Covid really sped things up as far as the impact of the teacher shortage, so we're feeling it much, much more than we did in 2018," said Maysam Alie-Bazzi.

Three-plus years into the pandemic and many schools are still scrambling to get enough teachers in classrooms. Resignation numbers are up, retention numbers are down, and the hiring climate is getting more and more competitive.

Take the Dearborn school district for example.

"Everyone that comes through our door has interviewed with other districts, they tell you exactly how much experience they have, and what they're hoping to make," said Alie-Bazzi, executive director of staff and student services

"Most of our teachers are between elderly parents and young children. and so the demands of the profession continued to increase…."

The shortage of educators in Michigan and across the country has been an ongoing challenge, and that includes substitute teachers.

The reality is, even before COVID-19 emerged, there’s been a growing disinterest in the teaching profession.

"In the past, you would have had 90 students - say education students, going into become teachers at a local university," she said.. "And now 90 students per semester now you're seeing like 20 students per semester."

So, what do you do? Dearborn schools have boosted incentives for those interested in becoming teachers. For example, partnering with local colleges and universities to help students complete their education, by easing their financial burden.

But even that’s not proving to be enough.

"By the time they're ready to graduate in, they complete their student teaching experience, they've already got several job offers on the table," she said.

One saving grace? Substitute teachers. Ali-Bazzi says long-term subs have been instrumental in keeping curricula on track. However, it’s not cheap - each one makes about $200 day in the district.

"We have to get them trained, not only how to teach, but how to teach virtually," she said. "Our substitute fill rate is about 98 percent, which is excellent. There were times during Covid when it was as low as 70."

Even with a high fill rate, the need for more resources continues. Specialists, counselors, nurses, and administrators. It’s a challenge.

It is one Gov. Gretchen Whitmer is aware of, which is why the state secured new funding - $575 million to be exact, to help schools "grow their own programs."

"They'll pay $10,000 of their tuition if they're attending a teaching certification program," Alie-Bazzi said. "And so we're definitely capitalizing on that right now."