EAST LANSING — With media coverage continuing to focus on Michigan’s educator shortage, MEA has launched www.MichiganEducatorProject.org so the public can hear directly from front-line teachers and other education employees about what’s driving the crisis.
“Recruit. Respect. Retain.” Under that banner, the new site includes videos from educators – recorded both before and during the pandemic – talking about the issues prompting workers to either exit the profession or choose different careers from the outset.
“As we celebrate Teacher Appreciation Week, we must recognize that while COVID-19 has worsened our educator shortage, the issues behind this crisis have been present for years,” said MEA President Paula Herbart. “From teachers and counselors to bus drivers and paraprofessionals, every job in public education is essential – and increasingly difficult to fill with qualified, dedicated individuals.
“As a state, we must address educator frustrations that are driving this shortage if we want to recruit and retain the best and brightest to this profession for the benefit of our students.”
Some of the issues identified by educators in videos on the new site include the lack of respect for educator expertise and decision making; the overemphasis of standardized testing for both students and educators; and cost barriers to entering the education profession. On the financial front in particular, recent NEA research shows that Michigan ranks 41st nationally in starting teacher salary, with educators earning just 84 cents on the dollar compared to other professionals with the same education and years of experience.
Despite those challenges, the commitment of educators to continue serving students and the importance of a quality public education were major drivers to keep fighting for the profession.
“I know how important education is and I want to work with students to really empower them to eventually change the world,” said Brittany Perreault, an MSU education major who serves as president of MEA’s Aspiring Educators of Michigan program.
The Michigan Educator Project grew out of a series of focus groups held with educators across the state in late 2019 that explored solutions for Michigan’s education workforce challenges. Those events, sponsored by MEA, AFT Michigan and Middle Cities Education Association, resulted in a February 2020 report by Public Policy Associates, “Examining Michigan’s Education Workforce: How to Address the Talent Shortage Facing Michigan’s Schools.”