By ZARIA PHILLIPS
Capital News Service
LANSING — Most teachers wouldn’t recommend that their students follow in their footsteps, according to a recent Michigan survey.
Launch Michigan, a diverse coalition of groups that are sometimes at loggerheads but come together to advocate for education changes, reports that 75% of Michigan educators would not recommend education as a career. That contributes to the challenges of recruitment and retention, experts say.
Launch Michigan is a coalition of business, teacher, administrator and other organizations seeking education reform. Their hope is to find solutions and strategies for the problems teachers face and retain more educators, said Emma White, the principal researcher at Emma White Research who did the survey. She is based in Ann Arbor.
Teacher dissatisfaction is widespread, according to the survey.
“I’ve had science and math teacher positions open for months with zero applications,” said Brian Reattoir, the superintendent of Brimley Area Schools in the Upper Peninsula.
“People go to a university for four years and even get graduate degrees in education and still don’t get paid enough,” he said. “It’s a 10- to 12- hour day for many teachers. And changes to retirement plans for teachers also have really pushed people away from the field.”
The survey questioned about 17,000 educators across the state.
“Looking at teacher satisfaction, above 50 percent say, yes, they’re satisfied with their own district, but as for recommending the job, 75 percent say, no, that’s a problem,” said Doug Pratt, director of public affairs for the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest union of teachers and other school personnel.
Numerous factors frustrate teachers, said Paula Herbart, the president of MEA and co-chair of Launch Michigan. Class sizes are too large, legislative mandates change, and training and wages are low.
“There will be children here forever, there will always be a need for this work,” Herbart said. “But teachers feel that they’re not being respected for their expertise.”
MEA officials say the number-one source of teacher discontent is lawmakers without educational expertise deciding what and how to teach.
Reattoir said legislators also need to stop making it difficult to teach with unfunded mandates and ever-changing teacher evaluations and standardized testing requirements.
But changing the view of the profession would be a huge help, he said.
“Looking at Michigan, we don’t value and fund education properly, so why would anyone want to go into a field where they aren’t valued?” he said.
That extends to administrators, he said.
“When teachers decide to become principals or superintendents they may get paid a little bit more, but the duties multiply,” he said. “Schools don’t have transportation, human resources or athletic directors so it’s the principals and superintendents that take on those jobs.”