Letter: Public school teachers need community support

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Editor:

Teachers, substitutes, aides and nearly all educators within a K-12 school system have endured so much throughout the duration of the pandemic, which unfortunately now is in its third year. While schools nationwide already had been facing a teacher shortage years prior, the issue since has been exacerbated because of COVID-19 and high-stress environments. And, Michigan schools are no exception.

According to a national survey that was published in October 2021, more than 75% of school leaders struggled to find substitute teachers this past year. Michigan’s State Superintendent Michael Rice mentioned part of the shortage could be attributed to the denigration of public education. Many teachers face barriers when it comes to pay, underfunded programs, lapsed certifications and more, which reflect on the sometimes-jaded views of public school systems. At the end of the day, our students become equally impacted. I don’t foresee a future where we don’t need our public schools and the community’s support.

What’s more, the teacher shortages often result in inconsistencies in classroom leaders. This turnover not only impacts the schools from within, but it directly impacts students. When schools find themselves in a pinch with vacancies, this can lead to classrooms being led by underqualified short-term subs, long-term subs, retired former teachers or teachers forced to lead classrooms outside of their expertise.

Having access to affordable, flexible degrees and certifications like those offered by Western Governors University could support adult learners or anyone wishing to switch career paths. For teacher aides, experienced substitute teachers and other educators just short of a license, higher education opportunities that equip them to succeed in their education journey are critical to combating the shortages.

An additional supporting piece to this complex but solvable puzzle is continued collaboration among K-12 schools, higher education institutions, Michigan policymakers and regional leaders. Now, more than ever, we need our educational leaders to feel supported so they can inspire our young people effectively. Together, we can bring life to our education system backup.

Alison Bell, regional vice president, Western Governors University

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