News Story

An Epidemic Of Off-Base Michigan ‘Teacher Shortage’ Narratives

115,800 is more than 110,788

Former Democratic State Rep. Adam Zemke wrote an op-ed in February in the Detroit Free Press, in which he said a teacher shortage had become an “immediate, statewide emergency.”

Zemke claimed schools have been forced to close due to lack of staff and pitched his solution: Spend more money on public schools. Zemke is now employed by Launch Michigan, an initiative that advocates for doing just that.

Zemke’s op-ed did not report that more teachers are employed in Michigan’s K-12 public schools this year than last year.

There are 115,800 teachers in the current school year, an increase over of about 5,000 teachers statewide. In the 2020-21 school year, the total headcount of teachers was 110,788. The figures come from state reports that use a definition of “teacher” which includes other positions, such as counselors, nurses, social workers and therapists.

Many school districts report having more classroom teachers this school year. For example, the Detroit Public Schools Community District had 3,193 teachers in fall 2021, an increase of 114 from the previous year. The data about Detroit comes from the school district, which has a more refined definition of teacher.

According to the state data, the total number of people on K-12 public school payrolls in all positions rose from 338,078 to 348,882 this year, a 3% increase.

The increased staff headcounts have occurred even as student enrollment has been stagnant. Public schools enrolled 5,844 more students this year than in 2020-21, which statistically equates to a 0% increase. There were 1.44 million students in all grades in public schools in 2021-22.

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.