By JORDAN BRADLEY
Capital News Service
LANSING – The Department of Education is working on solutions to Michigan’s teacher shortage.
A number of factors led to the K-12 education system shortage, the state superintendent of public instruction, Michael Flanagan said.
These include the poor economy and recent graduates leaving to teach out of state, but what some people may not consider is that college students are learning to teach in subjects that don’t need more teachers.
“There are 32 teacher prep programs in Michigan,” Flanagan said. “It’s important that those schools give sound career guidance. Students need to know which jobs are available.”
Those jobs are in the fields of math, science, technology, world languages and special education.
A bill introduced in the Senate would allow retired teachers to return to classroom without losing their pension benefits. It is sponsored by Sens. Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale, Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, and Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek. The bill is awaiting action by the full Senate.
“Teaching is the most noble and important of professions, and I have no doubt there are people out there who are willing to make a difference,” Flanagan said. “There are alternate routes for quality people to step up, step in and teach our kids.”
Flanagan mentioned Detroit as an example, having been hit hardest by the recession. He said that some classrooms are filled with 45 to 50 students due to more than 100 teacher vacancies.
Rural areas are also suffering.
Greg LaMore, the assistant superintendent for special needs at the Ottawa Area Intermediate School District, said that location impacts the number of teachers available.
Situated near Hope College and Grand Valley State University, districts in the Holland area have advantages that rural areas don’t. Between the two teacher prep and the allure of coastal city, LaMore’s districts are lacking only programs in highly specialized areas, like speech therapy.
“We’re very fortunate in Holland,” he said. “We’re one of the few places in Michigan that hasn’t been hit as hard by the recession.”
Another solution to the teacher shortage, Flanagan said, is teaching permits.
People don’t need a teaching degree to apply, but would be required to work and have a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field, such as math, science or a world language.
People interested in these permits can find more information at www.michigan.gov/moecs.
There are four types of permits: a substitute permit, a full-year permit, an emergency permit and an expert-in-residence permit. The duration of the permits vary, which offers options for professionals and potential teachers alike, according to the Department of Education.