News Story

Michigan ‘Teacher Shortage’ Claims Not Factual

‘Anecdotal and media reporting is not sufficient’

The Center for Michigan made an assertion in an interview with State Superintendent Michael Rice that isn’t factual.

Bridge Magazine asked Rice this question:

Bridge: “There’s a growing teacher shortage in Michigan that is leading to a vast increase in the number of long-term substitutes, who often have no teaching background, leading classrooms. Is that a concern to you?”

According to a report published by the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, however, the available research does not support claims of a teacher shortage in this state.

“The simple fact is that anecdotal and media reporting is not sufficient to establish that a statewide crisis exists,” the report concluded. “To do so requires a broader examination of the teacher pipeline, something that has not garnered as much attention or analysis by stakeholders, either at the local or state level. ... The research does not show that Michigan is currently facing a statewide teacher shortage, but it does document some troubling trends along the teacher pipeline that are likely contributors to the challenges local schools face filling certain classroom vacancies.”

The claim that a shortage exists is routinely challenged by the large number of individuals who apply for teacher positions posted by school districts around the state. For example, there were an average of 72 applicants for every teacher opening in the Grand Rapids Public Schools in 2016-17. And that year, the Troy School District received 2,045 applicants for one K-5 teacher opening.

Schools do appear to have difficulty attracting applicants for certain specialized positions, such as foreign language instructors and special education teachers. But the teaching profession is popular, if judged by the number of people responding to job openings.

What may be causing an increase in the use of substitute teachers is the number of days full-time teachers are out of the classroom.

For example, teachers in the Plymouth-Canton school district were not in class for an average of 15.54 days in the 2018-19 school year. That’s according to documents acquired in response to a Freedom of Information Act request. Teachers at Warren Public Schools missed an average of 15 days in the last school year. Livonia Public Schools teachers missed 13.77 days of class.

Teachers miss class for many reasons, including absences for illness, family leave, personal days, field trips, school conferences and training.

Teachers work a schedule that generally has 180 class days in a calendar year.