News Story

A Seeming Shortage Of Teacher Shortages, Yet More Media Reports Make The Claim

Hard to (again) declare not enough teachers when districts keep adding more per student

The Macomb Daily published a Nov. 10 story about efforts by Utica Community Schools to expand a teacher recruitment program that is “aimed at addressing a shortage of educators.”

Like so many other mainstream media articles about teacher shortages in Michigan, this one makes no mention of how many teachers are actually employed by the district.

Utica Community Schools has 28 more teachers this school year than it did in the previous year. The figures are 1,501 teachers for this year and 1,473 for the 2020-21 school year.

Even as the Macomb County district has added teachers, its enrollment has gone down. In the 2017-18 school year, the district enrolled 27,357 students, but by 2020-21, this had fallen to 25,721. Enrollment figures for the current school year have not been released yet.

Michigan Capitol Confidential has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with the largest school districts in the state, asking each for the number of teachers it employs.

Media voices have declared there is a shortage of teachers in the state. But they have not reported how many teachers are currently employed in Michigan and its local school districts.

For example, the nonprofit news sites Chalkbeat Detroit and Bridge Michigan reported the following on Nov. 9: “Numerous districts have temporarily closed schools or shifted them to remote learning because of teacher shortages exacerbated by faculty illnesses and quarantines.”

Michigan’s media also featured stories in 2020 warning of severe shortages to come due to early retirements of teachers stressed by dealing with COVID-19.

It is not possible to use the data collected by the state of Michigan to verify claims about a teacher shortage. That’s because it includes counselors, nurses, social workers and therapists, as well as teachers. For the Utica school district, for example, the state website known as MI School Data showed a staffing headcount for the 2020-21 school year of 1,594 individuals who were labeled “teachers.” But Utica school officials reported that the district had 1,473 instructors that year.

There have been recurrent shortages of instructors in certain niche areas of Michigan schools, such as special education, foreign languages and advanced sciences. This can be seen by reviewing the number of job applications various districts have received over a number of years. These reviews frequently show fewer people who apply for such specialty positions.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.