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State education leaders discuss teacher shortage, state K-12 budget

Michigan's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Michael Rice, spoke at Grand Rapids Union High school to celebrate educators, discuss the state's K-12 budget.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Michigan's Superintendent of Public Instruction, Dr. Michael F. Rice, spoke at Grand Rapids Union High school Thursday to celebrate educators and discuss the state's K-12 budget.

Dr. Rice was also joined by Dr. Leadriane Roby, Superintendent of Grand Rapids Public Schools and Michigan Education Association Executive Director Mike Shoudy.

This week is National Teacher Appreciation Week and the speakers showed their support for the educators as the state faces a teacher shortage.

Dr. Roby noted that the teacher shortage has been especially evident in the subjects of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"If there's ever time in K-12 history where we need to demonstrate the appreciation for our teachers and our educators. The time is right now, in the face of a global pandemic, historic teacher and staffing shortages, virtual learning, hybrid learning, masking learning, and everything in between. Our teachers have demonstrated their dedication, their grit, their passion, their love, resiliency, and professionalism by staying focus on our scholars. And for that, we say simply a heartfelt thank you," said Dr. Roby. 

Teacher retirements in Michigan are up 44% since August of 2020 and Dr. Ruby says that the GRPS school district has more than 60 vacant teaching positions.

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"We really need all hands on deck. This is a serious issue in a historic crisis of teacher shortage, particularly true of hard to fill positions such as science, technology, engineering and mathematics," Dr. Roby added.

Also discussed at the event was the state's K-12 budget, proposed by Gov. Whitmer earlier this year.

"Governor Whitmer's budget is a generational budget. It's the most extraordinary budget that most of us have ever seen in public education. Quite frankly, it may be the most extraordinary budget any of us ever see in public education," said Dr. Rice.

The budget calls for a 5% increase in foundation allowance, which equates to $435 per student. The budget, if passed, would also add a $1 billion infrastructure modernization fund, a $361 million principal for children's mental health and a $2.3 billion to address teacher improvement and staff retention.

"Educators have had to deal with a growing staff shortage COVID remote learning and unfair evaluation system, standardized tests, school violence and so much more," said Mike Saudi, Executive Director of the Michigan Education Association. "So many good school employees just can't do it anymore and fewer young people are going into the profession. This has created a school staff shortage that is only getting worse by the day. For the sake of our kids, future state leaders must take immediate action to recruit new teachers, as well as keep good teachers in the classroom. And we must do it now."

Saudi says in order to retain educators and recruit new ones, Governor Whitmer must address the teacher shortage and the mental health inside schools. Overall, he was confident in the budget ad its future impact on the states education system. 

"The governor's budget will help attract more young people to go into careers in education, as well as provide rich retention incentives to keep great educators on the job. Combined with better compensation and professional respect, these budget proposals can make a real difference, a real difference in fixing the educator shortage. Second, the governor's budget will make a huge stride in addressing mental health needs of our students."

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