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teacher shortage

Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio

The Detroit Public Schools Community District (DPSCD) has been through its first count day of the school year. It’s an important day, because the number of kids in attendance helps determine the amount of money the district receives from the state.

Nikolai Vitti, DPSCD’s new superintendent, joined Stateside to report how the day went in Detroit and to explain what the district is doing amidst teacher shortages and other challenges.

Michigan is facing a teacher shortage.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Nearly every school district in the nation uses the same type of salary schedule to pay its teachers -- a schedule with "steps" and "lanes" that pays based on years in the classroom, and you automatically get paid more if you have a master's degree or higher.

Photo courtesy of the Economic Policy Institute

Our first post in this series looked at the state's "average salary" for teachers and how that number can be misleading since it doesn't account for years of experience.

Results of our teacher survey.
Kaye LaFond / Michigan Radio

We put out a non-scientific survey earlier this summer asking teachers in the state how they've seen their pay change over the past several years. (You can check out the survey questions here.)

 

We heard from 390 teachers across more than 115 districts, which is awesome. (Thanks, teachers!)

 

We'll go through the six main themes that emerged, but first let's get up to speed on the basics.

 

A primer on teacher pay

 

Public school teachers in Michigan and most of the country follow a salary schedule that doles out automatic and relatively small incremental raises for each year of service (these are called "steps") and gives a bigger pay bump for additional educational attainment, like a master's degree or PhD (these are called "lanes").  

 

The number of "steps" and "lanes" varies from district to district. It can take seven steps to reach the top of the teacher pay ladder in one district and 30 steps in another district.  There are no more yearly step increases after a teacher reaches the top step, but some districts offer "longevity" bonuses for veteran teachers.

A child at a desk raising his hand.
Mercedes Mejia / Michigan Radio


We entrust our kids with Michigan's teachers five days a week. Yet most us of probably don't know much  about the way our teachers are paid. The truth might be surprising.

This week, Michigan Radio's Jennifer Guerra is exploring teacher pay in Michigan, and what it means for keeping the best teachers in their classrooms instead of seeing them flee for more lucrative and less stressful jobs elsewhere.

Jennifer Guerra / Michigan Radio

Michigan's average teacher salary has dropped for the fifth year in a row, and many districts say they have trouble retaining high quality teachers because of low pay.

So we wanted to know: what's going on with teacher pay in the state?

As a starting point, we have the average teacher salary in Michigan. The state Department of Education puts it at $61,978.

OK, so what does that number really tell us?

First, it marks a downward trend for five years in a row. The average teacher salary in 2011-12 was $62,613 and has dropped every year since. But beyond that, because it's not paired with any longevity data, it doesn't tell us a whole lot more.

Nikolai Vitti shakes hands at a teacher recruitment fair at Detroit's Martin Luther King, Jr. High School.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Detroit’s new schools superintendent says it’s “time to think differently” about some pressing issues—including the district’s chronic, ongoing teacher shortage.

It’s Nikolai Vitti’s first week on the job as head of the Detroit Public Schools Community District.

On Monday, Vitti met with teachers’ union leadership, visited two schools, and stopped by a teacher recruitment fair. He said the lack of teachers in too many classrooms is taking a toll on everyone in DPSCD schools.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather makes an announcement.
Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

Amidst tremendous uncertainty about its future existence, the Detroit Public Schools is trying to recruit teachers.

The district is holding a “DPS Day” recruitment fair for new teachers at Martin Luther King High School on Tuesday.

Officials admit that’s a challenging task when the district’s future is so insecure.

It’s waiting on state lawmakers to pass a huge aid package before it runs out of money altogether this summer.

DPS interim superintendent Alycia Meriweather says the sooner Lansing can get that resolved, the better.

Michigan is facing a teacher shortage.
Sarah Hulett / Michigan Radio

Gov. Snyder signed a bill Wednesday meant to alleviate the state’s ongoing teacher shortage.

The new law allows some retired teachers to return to the classroom in certain “critical shortage areas,” without sacrificing pension or health insurance benefits.

It’s not yet entirely clear where those critical shortage areas are.

The law also instructs the state superintendent to make that determination, and post the findings online by April.

Hallway in Huron High School in Ann Arbor.
user rosefirerising / Flickr

The Ann Arbor Public Schools is trying new tactics to deal with a “chronic” lack of enough substitute teachers.

Starting this month, the district will up sub pay from $75 to $100 a day. Officials also plan to raise pay rates for classroom assistants, though those rates haven’t been set yet.

The district will also try and assemble a team of “premier” substitutes, says Ann Arbor schools’ spokesman Andrew Cluley.

moare / MorgueFile

Michigan expects there will be a shortage of teachers in certain subjects this school year. Early childhood, special education, foreign language and a variety of occupational teachers are facing a “critical” shortage.

Manufacturing Tech Expo at College of DuPage 2014 4

Michigan has a teacher shortage, at least when it comes to vocational programs.

Education administrators say it's creating "emergency situations" in some parts of the state, especially rural areas.