Staffing, mental health are most pressing issues in Michigan schools, survey finds

School staffing shortages and concerns over student mental health have surpassed pay and benefits as the most pressing issues facing Michigan schools, according to a survey of 2,600 public school employees released Monday by the Michigan Education Association.

The survey, done by Emma White Research for the MEA, included 2,587 active K-12 teachers and staff, higher education faculty and staff and was conducted online from Jan. 25-28.

MEA President Paula Herbart said the educator shortage is having a daily impact on students and educators.

“This survey proves what we already knew: Michigan’s teachers, support staff and other public school employees are at a breaking point,” said Herbart. “This is adding to already overwhelming pressure caused by meeting students’ academic, social and emotional needs while also dealing with COVID-19, unfair evaluations, standardized testing, the threat of school violence and so much more.”

MEA President Paula Herbert discusses acute educator shortage and its impact on students was discussed over zoom on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

The MEA has about 120,000 members statewide. Doug Pratt, spokesman for the MEA, said quantifying the shortage is difficult to do because the union doesn’t receive data directly from the state’s 530 local districts when educators retire or leave. 

Michigan has been experiencing a teacher shortage for more than a decade. Retirement data from the state show about 1,800 to 1,900 teachers retired every year from 2016 to 2019. In 2020, retirements were higher for 10 of the 12 months compared with the prior year, with 2,066 teachers retiring, up from 1,791 in 2019.

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