Michigan educators are planning for next fall as the current academic year comes to a close. But almost one-third of the profession is considering not returning due to COVID-19 concerns, according to a survey done by the Michigan Education Association (MEA).
More than 15,000 Michigan educators were surveyed May 14 to 22 by the teachers’ union on COVID-19-related impacts on public education, including health risks, reopening plans and testing.
Of the teachers and support staff surveyed, 2% said they are leaving the profession, 12% said they are considering leaving, 5% said they are retiring sooner than planned, 12% said they are considering retiring sooner than planned and 1% are retiring as planned this year.
“That’s a significant jump in turnover at a time when we are already facing a shortage of educators in our state,” said Doug Pratt, MEA’s director of public affairs. “If others choose to leave the profession as well, it could get even worse. That’s why it’s so important that as we look at how to safely reopen schools that educators be engaged in that decision.”
While school administrators put together safe plans to reopen schools, they are also faced with the reality of an almost $1.2 billion revenue hit to the state’s School Aid Fund in the current 2020 fiscal year and an estimated cut of about $650 per student.
Fiscal Year 2021 starts on Oct. 1 and the School Aid Fund is estimated to have another $1.1 billion hole.
Like Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other Democrats, Pratt said that aid from the federal government is crucial right now.
“It’s essential for Congress to take action and pass funding to help states continue to provide a quality education,” Pratt said. “We know part of the driver in terms of the shortage so far has been driven by pay, and budget cuts are going to make that even worse.”
Whale the Democratic-led U.S. House last month passed another COVID-19 relief package, leadership in the GOP-controlled Senate declared it “dead on arrival.”
The MEA also surveyed educators on what standards and practices should be in place for the next school year.
Overwhelmingly, 91% of teachers agree that smaller classrooms will be necessary to enforce social distancing and 90% of teachers said that the state should do away with standardized testing and the third-grade reading law until normal school operations resume.
“This survey shows us health and safety are top of mind for Michigan’s hard-working, dedicated public educators. They know their students, parents and communities best, and want to be part of decision-making in safely reopening our school buildings,” MEA President Paula Herbart said.
“Just like nurses, doctors and other public health experts have been relied on during this crisis, we will urge our lawmakers to heed the findings of this survey as we chart a path back to school.”