News Story

More Teachers, Fewer Students, But Teacher Shortage Story Goes On

Bridge, Chalkbeat join the call for more

Oakridge Public Schools in Muskegon County has 34% more teachers this year than it did in the 2012-13 academic year, and it has fewer students than it did then.

Yet two nonprofit news sites in Michigan are pointing to the district as evidence of a teacher shortage in this state.

The Center for Michigan’s news site known as Bridge Michigan ran a May 13 article written by Chalkbeat Detroit that used a teacher from Oakridge Public Schools to advance the idea of a teacher shortage. Bridge Michigan joins other statewide media outlets in saying that low pay is one explanation.

“Michigan’s teacher shortage: What’s causing it, how serious is it, and what can be done?” the headline of the May 13 article reads.

The article quoted Oakridge High School teacher Danielle Groendyk, who says that teachers are leaving the district, with compensation the reason. The average teacher salary at Oakridge Public Schools is $57,775. That’s below the state average of $64,237.

Data from the state of Michigan on Oakridge Public Schools shows the district had 169 teachers in 2021-22. That means the district has added 43 teachers since 2012-13, a 34% increase over that nine-year period. Enrollment in the district has not changed much, however. There were 1,924 students in 2012-13 and 1,915 students in 2021-22.

These numbers mirror the statewide trend of more teachers and fewer students. From 2012-13 to 2021-22, there has been an 8.2% drop in student enrollment. The state of Michigan reports there were 115,800 teachers in 2021-22, or 13.2% more than in 2012-13.

The state of Michigan’s definition of teacher covers more jobs than that of the traditional classroom teacher. It includes such positions as nurses, counselors and psychologists. Michigan Capitol Confidential has filed Freedom of Information Act requests with dozens of school districts for more precise data on teachers. Overwhelmingly, those school districts reported having more classroom teachers in 2021-22 than they did in years past.

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.