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State program aims to get more teachers by paying for a degree or certification

Experts say the teacher shortage in Michigan is growing

By Peter Maxwell

The State of Michigan is facing a severe shortage of teachers, leaving many schools and districts struggling to fill open positions.

Teacher applications are coming in at about half of what they were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

To try and stop the shortage, the Michigan Intermediate School Districts (ISDs), through grants, started the Michigan Talent Together program. It gives aspiring teachers a tuition-free degree and lets them work in schools while completing their coursework.

Tyra Gains is a fifth-grade teacher at University Prep Art and Design Elementary School in Detroit. She’s also attending Northern Michigan University for her elementary certification.

She heard about the talent program through a friend and applied.

“It’s taken off ever since. I have been going to classes and enjoying my time in the program,” Gains said.

Every intermediate school district in the state is now part of the program. It’s the newest solution to a critical shortage of teachers in the state at all levels of education. Many teachers have retired or found new careers.

“No job is easy, no matter what you do. But if you love what you do, it won’t make you be like, ‘Oh, I don’t want to go there,'” Gains said.

Over the last decade, the state experienced a 66% drop in enrollment in education preparation programs, which is the second largest in the country. One of the reasons is cost.

The program seems to be making a difference. There are already hundreds of future teachers in the pipeline. Last year, the program saw 1,500 applicants with over 900 receiving degrees or their teaching certification.

Ken Gutman, the deputy superintendent of Oakland County Schools, said the program is a blessing for his district. He said it helps remove the financial barriers that would prevent people from getting their degree or certification.

“We certainly know there are people out there that want to be educators,” he said.