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Michigan schools have more teachers, fewer students. Are layoffs coming?

As Michigan schools face enrollment declines and the end of COVID funding, an analysis finds they’ll need to lose more than 5,000 teaching positions to get back to pre-pandemic student to staff ratios. (Chiarascura /
  • A new analysis finds that Michigan schools may have to layoff or otherwise lose thousands of teachers in coming years
  • Federal pandemic funding, which many schools used to boost staff, is running out and enrollment has not rebounded
  • School leaders face tough budget decisions which could include eliminating teaching positions

Michigan school districts may need to lay off or otherwise cut more than 5,000 teacher jobs in coming years to balance budgets as pandemic relief funding runs out, according to a new analysis of state public school trends. 

The report from the nonpartisan Citizens Research Council of Michigan points to the looming “COVID cliff” expected to hit K-12 school budgets later this year, and expose the full impact of continued enrollment declines. 

“To navigate the impending fiscal storm, many school leaders will likely look to trim teachers and other personnel from their ranks because much of the budget growth has been used to swell district staffing,” the report predicts. 


The research council, a nonpartisan think tank based in Lansing, arrived at that prediction after analyzing enrollment, staffing and revenue data for Michigan’s traditional public and charter schools. 


A massive influx of $5.6 billion in federal pandemic funds have helped Michigan school budgets grow despite declining enrollment. State funding for K-12 schools has increased by about $2.5 billion too, according to the CRC, but "nearly all" of that came from large one-time surpluses now gone.​​

If the state were in a “normal” budget situation, staffing numbers should have fallen as student enrollment declined, Craig Thiel, CRC research director, and author of the new report, told Bridge Michigan. 

But instead, 86% of traditional public schools and charter schools have more staff per student than before the pandemic, he found. And roughly  71% of districts now have more teachers per student.

Thiel’s initial analysis suggests Michigan schools will have to “lose up to 5,100 teachers statewide to get back to the same staffing ratios they had” before the federal aid arrived. That could mean layoffs or not hiring for vacant positions, among other things. 


Each district has made unique finance and staffing decisions. Some have put more money in their rainy day funds in recent years. But others missed that opportunity and now have less savings than they did pre pandemic. 

As Bridge previously reported, Ann Arbor Public Schools is preparing to make $25 million in cuts for next year, and its rainy day fund balance is so low that the state is intervening and requiring the district to submit a turnaround plan.  

Ann Arbor is among 10 districts the new CRC report identifies as "most at risk" for teacher layoffs. Others include Utica Community Schools, Walled Lake Consolidated Schools and Plymouth-Canton Community Schools. 

Wayne-Westland Schools and Detroit Public Schools Community District are also on the list.  

The Wayne-Westland district has already announced budget concerns and is facing steep cuts. In Detroit, board members last summer approved a 2024 budget with roughly $300 million in cuts, citing enrollment declines and the end of pandemic funds. 

“We knew the cliff was coming…and we're starting to see the effect of that in some of these districts sooner rather than later,” Thiel told Bridge. 

State Rep. Regina Weiss, an Oak Park Democrat who chairs the K-12 budget subcommittee, said she thinks “it’s too soon to predict an exact number” for how many teacher positions might be eliminated in coming years. 

But the funding cliff is “on our radar,” Weiss said, predicting Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s controversial proposal to limit pension system payments could help districts free up general funds they could put back into the classrooms. 

Republicans, outnumbered by just two seats in the state Senate, and expected to soon be down two in the House, have criticized the governor’s plan as a “raid” on the teacher pension system that could threaten future retirement promises. 

State Rep. Phil Green, R-Millington, said he was not surprised by the CRC prediction that Michigan schools may soon lose 5,000 teachers, telling Bridge that districts will face “tough decisions,” including possible consolidation.

“We have a crisis in education, however that crisis is really spawned from our economy, in that we have families leaving the state in droves,” he said. 

Michigan's population grew slightly in 2023 but had fallen each of the five prior years and is projected to shrink further. Over the past four decades, the state ranked 49th out of 50 for population growth. 

Bob McCann, executive director of The K-12 Alliance of Michigan, which represents 123 Southeast Michigan school districts, said district leaders have used the federal funds to build programming that students and families now rely on. 


He said tutors, reading coaches and staff who help with students' social and emotional needs are necessary in schools. 

“It took a significant amount of additional federal money to get to a place where we frankly should have been all along,” he said. 

Losing more than 5,000 people across the state would be “unfortunate,” McCann said, and state leaders should take steps to lessen the blow of the end of federal pandemic funds. 

“All of these positions are important and we’re seeing the success they have. And I think every school administrator is very concerned…of where we’re going to go in terms of funding them.”

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