Nearly a third of Michigan educators mull quitting because of coronavirus

Michigan educators worry about the health of their families and their coworkers if school buildings reopen in September. (Shutterstock photo)

About 7 percent of Michigan educators are leaving the profession because of concerns over coronavirus and another 24 percent are considering walking out the door, according to a survey of more than 15,000 Michigan K-12 educators released Thursday.

The survey, conducted May 15-22 by the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teacher union, revealed broad concern about reopening Michigan’s schools in September. 

If schools do open, educators support checking the temperatures of staff and students entering school buildings, and wearing masks.

“Our public educators want public health experts to say what reopening our schools should look like,” said MEA President Paula Herbart.

There are about 100,000 public school teachers in the state. About eight in 10 of survey respondents are K-12 teachers, with the remainder being education support staff. About 3 percent of respondents were college faculty.

The departure of thousands of teachers who quit because of health concerns related to COVID-19 or retire earlier than they intended would hobble Michigan schools, many of which already struggle with teacher shortages that force them to turn to uncertified long-term substitute teachers to lead classrooms.

The survey found 1.2 percent of educators were retiring this year as planned -- a figure MEA communications director Doug Pratt said is typical. 

What is worrying in the survey, Pratt said, was 4.8 percent who said they are now going to retire early because of coronavirus, as well as 2.2 percent who said they are leaving short of retirement because of health concerns connected to the pandemic. Another 23 percent are considering leaving.

“If even a fraction of those who are considering leaving follow through, that’s thousands of teachers,” Pratt said. That will exacerbate the problem ]of teacher shortage in some districts.]”

The survey findings are similar to a national survey that found one in five teachers were considering quitting as a result of the pandemic.

Michigan’s public and private K-12 schools have been shuttered since mid-March under an executive order from Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as the state tried to stem the spread of the potentially deadly virus. Education has continued for homebound students, primarily through online lessons or printed packets of lessons.

Whitmer created an advisory council consisting of teachers, administrators, students, parents and health officials to map out a plan for K-12 education until a vaccine is developed. The results of the survey will be shared with the advisory council, MEA’s Herbart said.

There is no date set for the release of those recommendations.

Schools are under pressure to find ways to bring students back to classrooms in the fall, so parents can return to work.

In the survey, more than eight in 10 educators said they worry about the health risks to their families if they return to in-person teaching in the fall. Nine in 10 fear for the health of fellow teachers, administrators and support staff. Eighty-six percent had the same health fears about their students who are in an age group that generally is less impacted by COVID-19.

Only 26 percent of educators felt school could return by September to in-person learning “that is close to the same as prior to the closures in March. 

Nearly a third, 30 percent, said learning won’t return to normal until a vaccine is developed.

“Our members anticipate dealing with a new normal for a long time going forward,” Pratt said.

Among the other survey findings:

  • 93 percent said class sizes will need to be smaller to allow for social distancing. How small? “That depends on the square footage [of classrooms],” Herbart said.

  • Even with smaller class sizes, 80 percent of elementary teachers said social distancing will be “very difficult” for their grade level; 68 percent of middle school teachers and 62 percent of high school teachers said social distancing will be very difficult.

  • 77 percent said schools will need to implement staggered schedules so not all students are in school, or arriving and departing school, at the same time. That could mean an extended day for teachers (something that would have to be renegotiated in teacher contracts), or teachers could alternate schedules - some working early shifts and some working late shifts, said Herbart.

  • 74 percent said temperatures of staff and students should be checked daily as they enter school buildings.

  • 74 percent said staff should wear face masks; 67 percent said students should wear masks, too.

  • 82 percent opposed mandatory summer school aimed at helping students catch up on learning losses that occurred during more than two months of remote learning. Educators said they believed parents would not feel safe sending their children to school this summer, and that there was a “lack of community support” for mandatory summer school.

  • Almost nine in 10 said standardized tests should be scuttled until normal school operations can return.

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Thu, 06/04/2020 - 3:32pm

And work at Amazon, instead?

Ali K
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 3:42pm

In the article you state, "Schools are under pressure to find ways to bring students back to classrooms in the fall, so parents can return to work." I believe schools are under pressure to bring students back to the classrooms to educate children, not to provide day care. This statement belittles the work that teachers do to educate their students.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 10:52am

The American people have very short memories. During the Clinton era, the message changed from sending your kids to school to educate them, to send you kids to school to be taken care of while you work. Then with the footnote, a lot of parents don't know how to raise kids anyway so we will do it right. Parents for several years now, are convinced kids should stay at school all day to take pressure off of them to make meals for them and make sure they get their homework done. Just an observation, but this may be a contributing factor in why far fewer parents take a interest in their kids education than 40 years ago.

jane mariouw
Thu, 06/18/2020 - 5:43pm

come off your high horse Jeff.
teachers are way too glorified.
parents, good, bad and average
care about their kids more than anyone. and do their best with their 24 hr responsibilities.

Mari Carmen Galeana
Fri, 06/19/2020 - 5:41pm

Wow Jane that's kind of harsh. I worked as a school counselor for 12 years, most of that time in Michigan and I saw first hand how teachers and staff felt about their students. I was in the business world for 17 years prior to be coming a counselor, and I know very few professions that spend $2-$5 thousand out of their pockets for supplies and things for their students. I left the field of education for many reasons, but one of them included parents expectations that children should be dropped off at the school gates and it's our responsibility to fix whatever is wrong with them. I know earn twice as much as a consultant for half of work! So, I would rethink your position that teachers are glorified, especially if you can't find them

Mari G. Seattle, Washington

So sad
Thu, 06/04/2020 - 9:41pm

82 percent opposed mandatory summer school aimed at helping students catch up on learning losses that occurred during more than two months of remote learning. Educators said they believed parents would not feel safe sending their children to school this summer, and that there was a “lack of community support” for mandatory summer school.

Almost nine in 10 said standardized tests should be scuttled until normal school operations can return.

I feel like my kids have fallen through the cracks. Yes, scrap the standardized tests like SAT/ACT. No, don't skip summer school. Let the kids take breaks throughout the school year. They need help during the summer because they really missed a lot.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 2:13pm

I agree, they should have at least offered summer school even if it was remote only to families who were concerned about their child falling behind. Granted some parents would opt out, but at least offer this opportunity to other families who actually care about their child's education!

Jim tomlinson
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 8:23am

The right has targeted, denigrated, teachers since engler. Teacher shortage is here. Unless working conditipns improve, compensation increases, respect for the absolute importance of what they do it will get worse. The right’s zeal to privatize, resentment of, brainwash children are well known

Richard M
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 11:43am

"are well known" = I have zero evidence for this but I want to say it anyway.

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 10:29am

Buddy, open your eyes. Neoliberalism has privatized or attempted to privatize every facet of human existence.

jan d
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 8:48am

I believe we need to look at year-round school, longer hours of school operation and use of virtual, video education. I have seen some video teaching that I believe could be implemented - students watch video at their pace, going back if they don't understand the first time through, followed by in-person review/discussion and teachers, not assistants, engaging with students.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:29am

One can understand the educators near retirement and ones with underlying conditions.
However, it sounds like the remainder that want to leave suddenly realized they don't care for teaching.

George Hagenauer
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:39am

I wonder how close this reflects society as a whole- just that a lot of people don't have the advanced skills to leave their jobs. Also a large number of teachers work part time in other jobs anyway so often have experience in businesses they can transition to easily. Second has anyone looked at shifting school to warmer periods where more can be done outside or their could be more ventilation of classrooms? That may reduce the risk a little.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:41am

With all children needing guidance, some more desperately, there should be greater opportunities for mentors, whether students, retired teachers or even those with life experience.

Ken Kolk
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:51am

The combination of the years of attacks on teaching professional by the DeVos supported Mackinaw Center and the Michigan Republican Part, the State Legislature’s using the School Aid Fund cuts to balance the State Budget and to pay for the bi-annual Republican purchase of votes tax cuts, the annual insanity of high stakes tests that are tied to teachersalaries, turning the teacher’s pension system into a 401k style uncertain benefit system and finally the passage of the “Right-to-Work-For-Less law passed in a Lame Duck Session of the State Legislative attempt to destroy teacher’s unions. is finally coming home to roost. It has taken the Republicans two generations to undermine what was one of America’s Premier Public School Systems.

This Pandemic may finally result in the DeVos desired final destruction of citizen controlled Public Schools, because of they are finally destroying the teaching profession. It has taken 40 years to force all students into privately owned and controlled publicly funded for profit schools, but their goal is now in sight,

We will not be able to undo this damage overnight. It takes a minimum of four years for an entering high school graduate to secure certification, actually it often takes five to six years. Our best students look at the way teachers are always under attack, accused of being lazy, need to spend personal time grading papers and planning, are under paid, often have to use their own funds for their student’s supplies and have to take a second job to support their families, and say “Why Would I Want That Life” and choose something else.

We need to look at the finest public schools in the world, in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and then reform Michigan’s Public Schools on this model and again give our children a world class education. We need to treat teachers as the professionals that they are and we must compensate them as other professionals are compensated. That will require re-prioritizing the place of education in the State Budget and pass fair taxes that may only be used for real public schools, colleges, and universities.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 11:50am

Well said. The same thing can be said about the roads, the infrastructure, the environment, etc. Republicans have run this State into the ground by promising "no new taxes" and achieving that by neglecting everything that makes the state function. It's like buying a house and
never putting a dime into maintenance and saying: "See how much money I've saved" as the house crumbles. The latest ranking I saw for the State regarding infrastructure was #41 (only 9 states worse---there WILL be more dam failures---and education #37. Also, young people are doing what's best for them by leaving this failing State: the death rate now exceeds the birth rate and we are now the 12th oldest state in the union. My daughter is a teacher and I wish she would quit. No raise in 10 years---that is outrageous. (P.S. in case you are not aware of this,
if you were born before 1946 you pay no state taxes ---another stupid pander to the older voters that harms the state. I have not paid MI taxes since the law was passed and thought it was stupid then as is now. But, I was raised at a time where paying taxes was your patriotic duty to support and build you community and the country. We are WAY past that sentiment. Now it's "me, me, me---what's in it for me?")

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 4:00pm


Fri, 06/05/2020 - 12:19pm

Schools must get back to teaching and not social engineering, sexual propaganda, and political propaganda. Until then Public School is just liberal, radical brain washing,,,and we can all do with out that! I support TRUE public EDUCATION!

Math Sux
Sun, 06/07/2020 - 8:50am

For a start, the educators need courses in statistics and data analysis. It appears the MEA has hewed to the "party line" (i.e. Dem talking points) and utterly failed at a rational view of COVID 19 infections, death rates, and recovery. Without complete data, the oft repeated "the sky is falling" media message may turn out to have driven an economic and social calamity which, in turn, may push American society, as we know it today, to a new reality that was brought about by irrational hysteria and a desire to remove, at any cost, the current federal administration.

...all because we were not trusted to handle our own choices...sad.

Bob Butkiss
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 2:36pm

Great post comrade! Workers of The World Unite! Shout slogans and attack any who oppose our worker's utopia! Down with capitalism!

Al Churchill
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 11:06pm

Contrary to the narrative created by politicians in need of a "mommy" issue, when you control for the effect of poverty, American schools do as well as Finland, etc. when compared internationally according to Diane Ravitch, who has served in both Republican and Democratic US Department of Educations.
"A Nation at Risk", the partisan study that is the basis of current education criticism, was flawed generally and inaccurate specifically.
Additionally, this writer is aware of two instances of American schools participating in international tests measuring critical thinking, placing, minimally, in the top 25% of nations.
That does not negate the need for attention to our schools in search for improvement and excellence.

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 7:51pm

I doubt you have done your homework or you may not be so quick to offer the Scandinavian countries. Using Sweden as an example. you may want to go online view some reporting on how they are succeeding, see, you will find that after their experience with socialism in the 70s they have privatized their pension program [equivalent to US Social Security], the railroads, even the schools are predominated by privatization with the voucher system they use. They found government didn't provide the innovation, the results they wanted so the turned to privatization.
They gave up on the promises of politicians and turned to the accountability of the marketplace. Are you willing to do that? They even tax the lower incomes at a higher rate than the rich. Their choice was results over government/politicians, what is you choice?
see the full documentary

middle of the mit
Mon, 06/08/2020 - 1:00am


Is duane telling us that Social Security is Privatized! Is this your latest "perception" in trying to gaslight people? George W Bush tried it, he failed. Unless you know something the Trump administration has pushed through the dem House...........gaslighter. Or are you telling us that Swedens actual pension system is privatized? Because then I would refer you to Americas long lost pension system that was always privatized until the Government had to put into place the Pension Benefit Guarantee Fund. Ahhhh... Privatization! And do you know anyone that offers pensions anymore? Besides the Government?

I think what you meant was that Chile privatized their version of SS during Pinochet, and then it didn't go well.

And what are these results that privatization give? Turning your 401K into a 201 or 101K every ten years and hoping you make a comeback? And who pays for all this investor profit? The poor who purchase the products, have no investments and no way recoup the money they have to pay for never ending stock and product price rises?

And they tax the lower income brackets more than wealthy? Is this your dream world? How do they do this? Is it a fair tax when there is a standard percentage that everyone pays when they purchase something? Isn't that what you are fighting for? And could you tell us how in America you say that a fair tax is the poor paying the same rate, but if it happens somewhere else, the poor are paying more? I know how this works and I know why the latter is true...............I want you to tell us why.

Also, you should look into how much they get paid per hour.

The difference? Most of their tax money goes into the welfare state for their poor. As opposed to our country where it goes to tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy because the poor in our country need to pay too. Oh and also..lifetime benefit cuts on that welfare.

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 9:40pm

There you go again hearing only what you want to hear and not listening to the comment. I was trying to help Ken learn more about the systems he apparently had not read about. I was trying to show him how the Swedes had found opening much of what had be operated by government/elected officials to competing private companies turned their disappointing results to the desire results. The taxing I mentioned was simply to emphasize the difference in perception and reality. If you want to explore that further, my understanding the Swedish reasoning is the more wealthy the more likely they are to find places that offer a lower tax rate to live and work. There are those who start out poor and do become investors, and do prosper. "Ronald Read, a Vermont gas station attendant and janitor, invested in recognizable names when he amassed an $8 million fortune, according to his attorney. " CNBC Feb 9 2015
You don't even seem to grasp that Al brought up Chile and I simply pointed out that it wasn't Friedman that did anything their but some locals that had studied at Univ of Chicago where he taught, and his 'expertise' was money supply not sociology.

Let's be honest here, 'fair' is a convenience for you to use against those you are trying to intimidate. Every time I hear someone invoke 'fair' it tells me they expect others to provide the results people aren't achieving on their own. I have not found life to be 'fair' and we have always taught our daughters to work on what you can control and never expect fairness to step in to help you.

Al Churchill
Mon, 06/08/2020 - 2:58am

duane As usual, a personal attack is a part of your commentary, suggesting to Ken, “I doubt you have done your homework....”.
Then you pointed to Sweden, still a social democracy, contrary to what the gist of your description of it suggests. Indeed, all of the Nordic countries, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Finland can claim that status to a large degree.
You suggested in Sweden, “… even the schools are predominated by privatization….”. That is simply not true.
In the three biggest Swedish cities 25% of younger students and 40%-55% of upper secondary students attend free private schools that are allowed to make a profit. While Denmark is similar to Sweden in the number of students attending publically funded private schools, none of the other Nordic schools, including Denmark, allow a for-profit basis in their schools.
Sweden has had corporate schools for decades and, until recently, they did not do well.
On the positive side, Sweden now ranks fifth in Europe in reading ability. They are above average compared to all PISA nations. The bad news is that the gap between the well-to-do and lesser kids is widening, not typical in Sweden.
If Swedish schools have improved, generally, other Nordic nations with public schools still outperform them academically, particularly Finland who outdid them in everything, including reading.
Finally, you make reference to Milton Freidman, the libertarian economist who, supposedly, bettered Chile’s schools with free market principles and vouchers.
Chile’s people have rejected Freidman’s stark model, adding more humane features to their schools.
It is worth adding that Milwaukee has had vouchers for somewhere near twenty-five years. I am unaware, during that period, of any time when voucher schools performed superior to Milwaukee’s traditional public schools.
Help me out here duane. I like to think that I did my homework.

Mon, 06/08/2020 - 9:39pm

No question about you doing your homework, but a comment or two about how you apply what you have learned.
What it seems is you confuse a comment on the actions or lack of actions as a personal attack rather then simply an observation. As an example when a person does the arithmetic in problem wrong, to say they were wrong, or that what they did was incomplete, or that they hadn't appeared to have thought the problem through or had not studied the method of learning the applicable arithmetic is not a personal attack, it is simply comments about an action/in action.
My view of a personal attack is when someone makes a derogatory remark about the individual, such as a comment on their appearance, on their linage, about their social standing, or something that is about the individual and not about their actions/statements.
We differ on how we define predominate, you seem to feel is define by market share while I see it by how it influence on performance/product/services available in the marketplace. If Public schools change their results, change their methods, change their services to improve or maintain market share to successfully compete with private schools, then the private schools predominate the market [and may even prefer a smaller but pricier share].
Similarly, we different on how to define an capitalist marketplace and a socialist marketplace. You seem to believe that the source of money paying for a product/service from a private company makes the marketplace socialist, while I believe the who decides what is offered and how it is offered determines the nature of the marketplace. As an example, if a government agency has to go into the marketplace and chose from that the businesses offer in the marketplace and bid in competition with others for the product/service then it is a capitalist marketplace. Where you seem to think that if the government buys a car from GM that makes the marketplace socialist, I believe that the fact that GM can sell the car to whomever they want and for the best price they can get makes it a capitalist marketplace.
Sweden provides vouchers to families for them to into the open market and choose who and how much they will pay to those educating their children, including private companies [that decide on how they will deliver that education], makes it a capitalist marketplace. While in the US the residents pay specific taxes for children's education and if a parent feels they would rather send their children to a private school and forfeit any benefit from their school taxes, they in affect must leave the socialism marketplace for education and find a private marketplace independent of the government run market.
Similarly, the Swedish pension system equivalent to our Social Security system is one where it has been opened to private [profit driven] investment management businesses to compete to manage [based on delivered results] those pension funds. As best I can tell America's Social Security is a forced system that is solely managed by the government and the financial performance had no impact on the compensation of those managing that money. Again Sweden had given up government management to private enterprise.

As for the Milwaukee voucher system, that is another topic and one I would have to do some reading on. As for school's scheme with educational success I would like to hear more about the KIPP schools. I would really like to have a conversation about the learning process and the role/responsibilities of the student before spending much time on the education systems. Again that is a different conversation. What I recall of Milton Friedman, he was about money supply and how the velocity of money was as significant influence on inflation. As for his impact on Chile, it seemed it was possible former students that were local that were applying interpreting/applying at the Univ of Chicago to the Chilean financial system so to say it was Milton Friedman's social system could be a bit of a stretch, but again you most likely done more work on this than I.

Al Churchill
Tue, 06/09/2020 - 11:41pm

duane Having read Milton Friedman, I am somewhat familiar with his work as a libertarian, monetarist economist. I am also aware of his prominence at the Chicago School of Economics.
That being the case, implying, that the Chilean local Chicago School graduates may have been a breed separate from Friedman does not stand up to the light of examination. Not only was Freidman their mentor, but he visited Chile in order to shape economic policies under Pinochet.
Furthermore, I have no idea how your understanding "... the source of money paying for a product/service from a private company makes the marketplace socialist..." defines any of my economic beliefs. The overarching principle in a capitalist system is that economic activity happen within a private, not public environment. Inasmuch as all the European social-democracies have vibrant private sectors, a definition of socialism is, personally, nebulous, largely misunderstood by the public.
Point to KIPP and the,supposed, reforms all you want. NEAP is the proof in the pudding. Sometimes called America's report card, data from that source show that over, at least a ten year period, student test scores have not improved. In math, scores have gone slightly down. The imposition of politically driven educational doctrine has been a failure.
Your contention that Social Security is a system "forced" upon our citizens, is, also, not true. It was put in place by politicians voted in by their constituents during a democratic election and favored by a majority of citizens ever since. Social Security's importance to many is reflected in the fact that roughly half of America's workforce retire without a private pension, relying essentially on a public sector stipend that they have contributed to for sustenence.

Relative to schools, the National Educational Assessment Program, sometimes called America's report card, indicates that over , at least, a ten year period, there has been no improvement in student test scores. In math, scores have gone down slightly. In general, so much for self-righteous reformers.

Fri, 06/12/2020 - 8:13am

My understanding of the KIPP approach is that the students have a role with responsibilities in their learning process, and that has proven effective for me and my family. For us the 'proof in the pudding' has been the earning of post high school learning providing for financial [job and personal life] success. While it seems you place more emphasis on the aggregation of testing score to determine the value of our education system. That difference seems to a good starting point for a conversation.
I expect your understanding of the what happened in Chile 50 years ago is better than mine, though I do wonder what the conditions were in Chile to create the opening for the financial changes.
How would expect a layman, such as myself, should define/describe capitalism and socialism? As an example my experience has been that I was required to make my contributions to SocSec and my employer had their contribution and ensured that both of those things happened. I do understand that there are those, in government jobs, religious roles, etc. that can/do opt out or are left out of the pension portion of the system. Even foreign nationals [such as Canadians] working in the US having to enroll and contributing SocSec. As for what I understand of the Swedish system that the management of investing the accumulated moneys is jobbed out to private [for profit] companies.

Al Churchill
Mon, 06/08/2020 - 8:23pm

duane Given your comment, I'm not sure if you favor taxing the less fortunate at a higher rate than the well to do. You might be interested in knowing, however, that we do just that in Michigan.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, an independent organization that regularly examines tax policy across all of the states, has found that the Michigan sales tax, like all sales taxes, has the poor paying a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the rich.
Class warfare by the Republicans, to be sure, the source of that being the case is a state Constitutional Convention that Republicans controlled with a majority of delegates.
If that makes you happy, you might want to reexamine what your yellow dog Democrat family knew.

Wed, 06/10/2020 - 12:13am

I recognize that government needs money to provide the services, and there are many ways to acquire those funds and many are rationalize by using the funding methods to encourage social activities/benefits. That is an appropriate conversation to have, but I would rather start with a conversation about program/agency performance [delivery of expected results] before working on means/methods of funding. Better to ensure full value is being provide when asking for financial support of the services.
I am not a likely recruit for your war on 'class', because I really don't care if people have more or less money than me, for I worked to get an education and applied that education so I could earn enough to provide for the lifestyle I am comfortable with.
As for that Republican control Constitutional Convention, my 'yellow dog' Democrat mother was a delegate [she seemed to be an active participant, so how well informed do you think she was likely to be], and as I recall she felt good about her contribution and supported the acceptance of the document. That did proved to be her launch platform to a long political career in elected politics. I broke with the 'yellow dog' Democrat approach to government, politics, and loyalty when I left home to make my way in the world and had to decide whether I would be responsible for my success or failure, just like in school it was up to me to do the work, to do the studying, to do the learning, and not expect others to provide it for me. That choice has influenced my politics, I am a helping hand up not a hand out, performance not a control voter. And most elections I have voted for the candidate that is likely to do the lesser harm.

Sun, 06/07/2020 - 6:07pm

"We need to look at the finest public schools in the world, in Finland, Denmark, Sweden, and Norway and then reform Michigan’s Public Schools on this model and again give our children a world class education. " You are right! And interestingly the Scandinavians spend about 65% the money per student that we do, pay their teachers a comparable rate, and the average citizen pays 40% of their income in taxes! Be more specific now.

james roberts
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 10:28am

If anybody is surprised teachers with 25 years and up experience are considering retiring, especially if they were smart enough to buy into their pension plans they haven't been listening to them for the past 10 years. Since most have seen no real raises in that time and continue to be required to fix the problems of society and not just teach, I wager about the same percentage were thinking about leaving the teaching profession before the pandemic. Teaching now requires an idealism that is lacking, based on the small numbers going into the profession now, look at the far reduced education graduates. Since the older contingent of teachers are the ones at risk its expected many would be unwilling to put themselves in more harms way. The younger teachers will of course have even more dumped on them and since it now takes as much as 20 years to move up the pay scale why be surprised they want to leave too.

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 2:09pm

I think a brief primer on "raises" is in order here. While it is true that during some of the toughest budget years, many districts negotiated contracts with no raises on the base pay, nearly every district has a salary scale with steps and lanes. Even without raises in the contract, in our district teachers get raises every year for 20 years as they move through the steps on the salary scale. Until recently, these step increases could be as much as 11 percent, until the scale was leveled to make the increases the same each year. If a teacher completes additional post-graduate work (tuition usually paid by the district), they can also move into an additional lane on the scale, which results in additional compensation. So the argument that teachers have not received raises is disingenuous at best. Teachers have been required to pay a percentage of the cost of their health insurance for several years now, by state law, but this has become commonplace throughout all sectors; in my household (my husband and I are both college-educated professionals), we have paid close to a third of the cost of our insurance since we began our careers, and continue to pay that share in retirement. By the way, both of us worked many evenings and weekends with no additional pay or compensatory time, because we did what was needed to get the job done. Professionals are paid a salary to do a job, not an hourly wage for a set number of hours per day or week. And we considered ourselves fortunate to both have careers that we enjoyed.

james roberts
Sat, 06/06/2020 - 8:32pm

You might note i referred to those with 25 years and up experience which of course means they are already at the top of the pay scale. The only raises they get are the negotiated contract increases and i am sure you know what those have been over the past 12 years. My wife saw great increases for the first 20 years of her career, and for the last 15 years an average of one half percent. Sure part of that was to keep the shared increase of their health care from going up as much but if we factor that increase in she took home LESS every year. Of course those step increases were designed to keep experienced teachers in the fold but when she started it took only 11 years to go up the the top scale. In recent years most school district unions have thrown the new teacher kids under the bus and allowed for the stretched pay bumps to 20 years and as high as 24 years. Lets see; start at $42,000 per year, if your lucky, take 20 years to get to the top at $86,000 and that comes to an average of $2,200 per year for average leap of 5.2% which of course will shrink based on the increasing base. Of course its only that high in one of the few remaining good districts, most far less. Of yeah, forgot that i have to pay another $10,000 to get my additional classes for my permanent teacher certification and if i pay another $10,000 or more and get a masters degree I can earn another $3,000 to $4,000 per year. Haven't heard of any district that gives tuition reimbursement, why would they if you get paid more when complete, unlike the Corporations, but at least the teacher gets a tax deduction. Family friends daughter has been a Math teacher at a small suburban district for five years, laid off every year, gets called back and earns a whopping $5,000 more than she started. Advised her how much more an actuary can make with her skills, but remains the idealist. Fewer and fewer of those left. Yes, the current aged group will probably still get their better than average retirement, maybe, but the young ones know that won't be there for them. Always wondered what would happen when we reached this point when all looked around and said "gee, why can't we get good people to go into teaching anymore.

Sun, 06/07/2020 - 4:22pm

Amen. The people of Michigan do not understand the issues and the prior commentator is one of them. In my daughter's district, she is given a "raise" to a new step but is told she will get the extra money when they can afford to pay it. Thank you for clarifying what is really going on here. Again, MI has become a failing state and the smart young people get out when they can.

Sun, 06/07/2020 - 11:56pm

I worry that you didn't completely hear LH. She mentioned that they did what it took to get the job done, I expect that job included continuous improvement in adding value for the employer each year. My experience has been that insufficient improvement [not meeting and even exceeding the metrics] would prevent any raise and could even put employment at risk. Much of the results such jobs include are expectations to deliver new/innovative technology and ensuring those that implement the changes have the knowledge and skills and understanding to delivery the expected results. It is much like ensuring others will produce the results a person will be measured on.
How would you equate the teaching experience in public schools to such job dynamics?

james roberts
Mon, 06/08/2020 - 8:21pm

Having managed in the corporate world i expected my staff to improve with the times, give up secretaries, do their own analysis and generally provide productivity improvements to keep me and the group valuable. Same holds true in the public school arena. The best tool for learning how to best reach and teach 30 separate kids or 150 separate kids in a high school is experience. Unfortunately even with those touted step increases, half of all new teachers quit after five years. Perhaps those high salaries elsewhere have an impact but i believe its more like they knew the pay was low when they went in, but found its not enough to make up for the constantly changing priorities we expect of them. Not to mention that they probably went into teaching due to a beloved teacher but found the respect they expected to be generally non-existent. In recent months I bet some made the switch to on-line learning reasonably well, but most are overwhelmed with no direction and no idea what will be expected of them next year. If $42,000 a year was not enough before the pandemic it will be far less sufficient when the work days become twice as long. Oh yeah forgot they work only 6 hours a day 182 days a year. Tell that to my wife who left at 5:30 in the morning and came home after 6, in time to grade papers. thankfully we were able to keep the kids from following her into teaching.

Tue, 06/09/2020 - 8:53pm

I am surprised with your corporate experience you would have seen the similarities in organization and their means/methods for creating productivity improvement expectations in the classroom organization, similarities in enlisting and being accountable for the performance of ever growing numbers of direct reports. And with that understanding I would like to hear your ideas/methods for adapting those experience to the classroom organization and for the promotion of teaching. I see each class a separate organization that a teacher leads/manages, and though each is different they would be similar and the process they need to use for personal and organizational success would be the same.

As for the teacher respect, I have been, in my public service life and in my professional career, vilified by association/job. I both appreciate how it is personally and professionally a barrier [one of many] to job success, I also have found it provides the opportunity to a diversity of perspectives that can allow one to expand their considerations and experience for long-term success. I was hired to do the job, and paid a salary to deliver results, so when I started my day and ended it was not a concern for my employer. The one advantage I did have was the work culture was one of work smarter not harder, even to the point where we were encouraged to look outside our organization across functions and organization and individuals for different perspectives that could open out thinking. That last point is probably the one that is most frustrating to me, for my whole life and for my children's lives including today our grandkids lives we continue to hear from those in education and those clinging to the status quo and unwillingness to listen other perspectives/experiences let alone try to engage others in their process.
If I could ask you wife one question as an education expert, how would she describe the learning process or what is a good reference to use to understand that process as applied in Michigan schools. I think that would be a good starting point to enlist a diversity of perspectives into a conversation about learning in school.

james roberts
Wed, 06/10/2020 - 6:04pm

Duane, My wife came up with one example that she thinks clarifies where we stand in public education. Go into most high school classrooms today and you will see students with cell phone earbuds sticking out of their ears, yes during class time. The schools usually have some kind of regulations against but of course its the teachers that get to enforce it. When they do, its their problem to deal with, keep the cell phone, earbuds, etc from a very unhappy student, who then turns to a generally very upset and unsupportive parent. The teacher can usually keep the phone for the day, but heaven help the teacher if something happens to it, or the student claims something did. You guessed it, the school administrators will back the parent, and as a result teachers are forced to ignore the problem. Is it a matter of respect, I would think it clearly indicates what are their priorities. I have pledged to support my own grandchildren, when they come along, to go to private school. Afraid the public schools are a lost cause.

Thu, 06/11/2020 - 11:32pm

I am not surprised that the failure in our schools falls on those who are responsible for the administering the schools, those that set the expectations, those that decide on the processes that are used.
What I have found is that even small pockets of success can spark change in an organization and who sets expectations, especially when those pockets have processes and practices that provide the desired results.
What I would like to hear are a diversity of experiences of how students are succeeding at learning, of the classroom process, of the student’s role/responsibilities, of the habits of success, it is by talking about these elements of success that we can define a successful process for learning, proven practices, the needed habits, and other factors in student success.
I would be interest how you would apply what you have learned in the corporate world [organizations] to the classroom/schools.

james roberts
Sat, 06/13/2020 - 11:42am

Duane, if only the corporate vs public comparison was valid. But I believe it is to some extent in the private schools. In the corporate world i had motivated individuals to work with and if not their slack was picked up by others and they probably did not last long. Private schools work similarly where the students are self selected and as result generally motivated, perhaps by parents mostly, but allowing for a concentration on teaching rather than dealing with a long list of social ills. As in the corporate world if students cannot work within the system they do not last long. Is it elitist to give up on public education? probably,but as long as the public emphasis continues to shift from the "three R's" more families will continue to make the move and sadly a two tiered education system is the result. Unfortunately demonstrated already in the poor district vs considered rich districts. I am sure you are aware most public schools threw in the towel with the pandemic, due to a percentage that could not get the on-line capabilities, the other 80% suffered too. Most Private schools just kept on trucking. Of course i know the colleges will be understanding in their expectations but i know which candidates i will be wanting to hire.

Sun, 06/14/2020 - 10:55am

I do not believe that successful practices in private company organizations is a panacea for others, but I do believe that their are protocols and practices that can be modified and used successfully in classrooms as well as other public organizations.
As an example I was working in a company as it transitions from a 'top down' organization to a flat and bottom up operations. People had always been told what to do and when to do it, and we moved to responsibility with authority was placed on the individual [all individuals for their jobs]. A few of things that proved effective was expectations of results, providing a description of the whole process, and defining their role/responsibilities. This was not easy or smooth or trusted, to most it was the first time for such understanding, for such authority, and for such responsibility.
It started with what it took to be successful in their job [in the case of the student it might be what is the learning process, what is their role/responsibilities in that process and why], I do realize that the students have a developing maturity and need the description to adjust for age/grade. But if a student is never taught the importance of studying, what studying is, how it is done effectively, and that message is not repeated year in and year out why should we expect them to ever learn how to learn.
Another thing that was implemented was the establishment of expectations [and with time and experience the individuals in teams took over establishing expectations], this is one that could evolve by grade, high school students should be setting expectations along with the teachers. In our case, this extended in to personal habits, applying [with training] Skinnerian psychology [antecedent/behavior/consequence] consequences in our case was driven to peer feedback not discipline/punishment.
None of these were easy, nor were they accepted at face value, for many of the people were independent minded [all most all of our facilities were in rural areas hiring part-time farmers and such, and even the technical people were hired into a innovative culture that required independent thinking [me being one of those] with a top down reinforcement of individual authority with accountability. A simple example in the classroom would be homework, who is responsible and what prevented it from being done or recognition for good work.
As my wife and I applied these to our daughters we also learned we had to help them develop a reason that they could make their own, so they would have that driver to remind them of why to do what was needed. I recall one daughter battled us on why to do good in school until she was about ten or so, since we kept talking about the need for learning in the future she would always find things that would need and education to do but we would always describe what the added education would be and where they would have to go to get it [she succumbed]. We were doing this in a school system where the 8th grade 'graduation' was the high social event for families [while high school graduation was almost a non event for families]. We moved to a district in Michigan where college acceptance was the norm [85%] and we found that the students were the reinforcing factor, the library was a social meeting place, studying time was the expected norm by their friends.
I offer these ideas to start a conversation, because as a learned at that former employer it is the challenges and working through them that creates working ideas.
Our daughters have taken their experience and improved on it with their kids learning more and faster, though the challenges were greatest in the early years.

james roberts
Sun, 06/14/2020 - 11:28pm

Duane, I see no need to ramble on because you hit the nail on the head. You and your family were there to emphasize all we have been talking about. If all the teacher had to do was reinforce your expectations for the 1,091 hours a year they have your students the problem would be solved. As of now that kind of home support has dwindled down to about half the kids, which is good because the teachers generally have to spend all their time with the rest, who get no support elsewhere and need extra help for a million different reasons. Yeah, mainstreaming a good idea, which could work with the right support, but since that doesn't happen not so good for the other 29 kids in the class. It would be nice if there were a more productive way to reach all the students, fairly and equitably, but equal results were never going to be possible.

Mon, 06/15/2020 - 3:11pm

Until we begin the conversation on the means/methods, the student role/responsibilities, the learning process, there is no hope for change. Everything will continue on the path we have traveling for the last couple of generations.
The headline about wealth gap, education gap, outcome gap, health gap, etc. will come up more and more often as people use it for political power while organizations like the schools will be torn a part.
Never will all do well because it is takes individual effort and that is a personal choice, but we can strive for is to deliver an accurate description of the an effective way to learn, to succeed academically, to prepare for a life time of learning. If we don't start the conversation, who will? Bridge has shown it has no interest in such a conversation.

Return to Normal
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 12:02pm

By Fall, students and their family members will have been interacting in employment and social settings every day for several months. To implement unproven and draconian measures in the school environment in September won't significantly decrease health risks and will handicap learning. Students and family members are not going to isolate in non-school hours. By the way, for many young people with limited resources and family problems, Stay Home doesn't equal Stay Safe; quite the opposite.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 1:13pm

Sounds to me as if we will be permanently moving to on-line education for the majority of Michigan's students because so many teachers think it will be too dangerous to teach in person and the generous retirement benefits that teachers over 50 or so still enjoy will let them leave the profession with little economic loss. I guess it's too much to hope for that the majority of the elemntary school teachers who decide to leave the profession will be those who either never learned to teach reading at all, or who still prefer the Whole Language approach. Too many teachers are still pursuing that path, though research shows that Whole Language doesn't work for more than half the students in any class, and that most Balanced Literacy approaches fail to teach reading to 30-40% of students.
Not to mention that parents who have household members at high risk from infections of any sort, or who have found that home education / remote schooling works well for their children may be loath to have their kids return to a group setting. Those further defections will cost the traditional school districts and some traditional charter schools even more money.

If a wave of teacher departures from the profession means students will get the most effective remaining teachers creating and producing video/virtual lessons on well-structured topics shared all across the state, this would be great. If it means that all the teachers who want and expect to be teaching this fall are already searching out ways to convert their curricula to be delivered remotely or on-line when and as necessary, I will cheer them on and make donations towards equipment and software licenses. Unfortunately, I doubt our educational establishment in Michigan will be that thoughtful or efficient about the changes that will be needed in response to COVID-19 and the demographic and economic changes the pandemic has created.

View From Kzoo
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 1:53pm

Just for the record: many of us substitute teachers, including those in long-term positions, have earned a Bachelor's (or higher) in Education, and a teaching certification. Many have been full time classroom teachers. Some of us have done post-graduate work as well. Lots of us value the flexibility of a sub's schedule. It does not mean we are unqualified, which seems to be one thing this article is inferring.

Fri, 06/05/2020 - 4:14pm

Your point is well-taken, as many substitutes are more than qualified and do a stellar job. I think that you meant “implying”, not “inferring”.

View From Kzoo
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 9:27pm

Thanks, Jill. I stand corrected!

Sun, 06/07/2020 - 1:58pm

Hi, View From Kzoo. That was very kind of you to accept my petty correction so graciously... I must miss correcting papers. Thank you, and I’m sorry. Jill

Rick Raisen
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 2:33pm

Public school teachers need to be better educated. They're supporting policies that are going to hurt their own jobs. If the MEA is smart, they will ignore their stupid members and fight for a return to normal and quick and hard as before. Otherwise, home school and online education will destroy their monopoly rapidly and it'll be the end for their organization and the jobs of their members.

Doby Joe
Tue, 06/09/2020 - 12:21am

Great point, Rick. Teachers are going to destroy themselves, just to prove how strong of Democrats and how loyal they are as progressives. If teachers were smart they'd be working hard to get kids back in their public schools full time as soon as possible.

Al Churchill
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 3:11pm

The problem with teachers quitting goes well beyond those leaving the profession because of the virus.
It is a stone-cold fact that, within five years of young people entering the profession, half of them have quit and found other means to fulfill their lives. The reasons for this have been expanded upon in an earlier comment related to this article.
The implication of Betsy DeVos pretty well stating that our American system of education is on an equal basis with that of East Germany under communist rule provides all that needs to be said about a lot of the criticism aimed at our schools.
That being said, there is room for improvement in our schools. Included in that improvement is an appropriate appreciation of teachers and what they do.

Paul Jordan
Fri, 06/05/2020 - 4:23pm

In part, this reflects the effects of over three decades of Republican politicians working to make teaching an unpleasant profession and otherwise undermine public education. They have succeeded, and this situation is one of the results.

But look on the bright side! Republicans are more successful with ignorant voters, and rich people are doing better than ever!

Sat, 06/06/2020 - 9:26am

This should work out well, since the state is looking at budget cuts and layoffs anyways.

Tabitha Vanderm...
Sat, 07/04/2020 - 10:07am

My kids will not be wearing a mask and they will NOT be vaccinated against this...