Teachers, substitutes, assistants and nearly every educator in a K-12 school system have endured so much throughout the span of the pandemic, which is sadly in its third year. While schools across the country were already facing a shortage of teachers years ago, the problem has since been exacerbated due to COVID-19 and high-stress environments. And, Michigan schools are no exception.
According to a national survey published in October 2021, more than 75% of principals struggled to find substitute teachers over the past year. Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice mentioned that some of the shortage could be attributed to bashing of public education. Many teachers face obstacles in compensation, underfunded programs, outdated certifications and more, which reflects the sometimes jaded views of public school systems. Ultimately, our students are also affected. I don’t foresee a future where we don’t need our public schools and community support.
In addition, the shortage of teachers often leads to inconsistencies in class leaders. This turnover not only impacts the schools internally, but it directly impacts the students. When schools run out of vacancies, it can lead to classrooms led by underqualified short-term substitutes, long-term substitutes, retired former teachers, or teachers forced to lead classrooms outside of their expertise.
Have access to affordable and flexible degrees and certifications like those offered by Western Governors University could support adult learners or anyone wishing to change careers. For teacher assistants, experienced substitute teachers, and other educators fresh from a license, higher education opportunities that equip them for academic success are key to addressing shortages.
An additional supporting piece to this complex but solvable puzzle is the ongoing collaboration between K-12 schools, institutions of higher learning, Michigan policymakers, and regional leaders. Now more than ever, we need our educational leaders to feel supported to effectively inspire our young people. Together, we can bring our safeguard of the education system to life.
Alison Bell, rregional vice president, Western Governors University