Rockford Public Schools Superintendent Michael Shibler is “grouchy” and fears “the cream of the crop of teachers” have all left the state. That’s what Shibler told The Grand Rapids Press in an Aug. 8 article titled, “Say goodbye to Michigan teachers: As school budgets shrink, so do their numbers.”
“We want high quality people but we don’t have jobs available,” Shibler said. “… We’ll feel the ramifications of this for years to come. Nobody wants an average teacher.”
But Shibler may want to review his district's previous teachers’ union contract, which didn’t list teacher performance as the primary factor to use when deciding which teachers should be laid off. That contract stated that seniority is the top factor in determining who gets laid off. And if there is a tie, the first tie-breaker is the highest degree held by seniority in a teaching field. The third tie-breaker is teaching competence.
However, a new teacher tenure law will require districts to factor in performance when determining layoffs.
And there is this: Rockford has been hiring more teachers over the past six years, according to state data.
Rockford’s enrollment has been growing, and they have added 19 percent more teachers in the past six years. Rockford had 322 teachers in 2004 and then 382 teachers in 2010, according to the most recent data from the state of Michigan. The teacher-to-pupil ratio has decreased from 24-1 in 2004 to 21-1 in 2010.
Michael Van Beek, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said there is no shortage of teachers in the state. He points to anecdotal reports from districts about the response to job postings.
For example, Chippewa Valley School District accepted 2,211 applications for 21 potential jobs it recently posted, according to Diane Blain, the district’s spokeswoman.
Van Beek said a district should be able to find quality teachers with more than 100 applicants per position.
“If you can’t, we have a very serious problem with our teacher prep programs,” Van Beek said.
Rockford’s per-pupil spending has increased 22 percent from $4,584 in 2004 to $5,599 in 2010, according to the National Public Education Finance Survey prepared by the Michigan Department of Education.