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Teaching as a profession falling on hard times

There is a tired, shop-worn narrative that swirls around the area, region, state and nation that holds, approximately, people go into teaching because it’s a cushy job with great pay, plus you get your summers off.

If it were true, we’d ask, why are fewer and fewer people actually going into the profession of teaching?

According to Public Policy Associates, a research group often cited in educational circles, the number of people who were actually certified to teach in the state of Michigan in 2017-18 was 3,819. Just four years earlier, the number was 5,045. The decrease, significant by any measurement, has all but driven education decision makers across the state into crisis mode.

According to teachers themselves and the unions that represent them, the reasons are starkly apparent: the fact the job just doesn’t pay enough is often cited among top reasons, as is large class sizes. Certainly there are other reasons.

“What we need to do is stop talking about education as though it’s less than a profession,” Michigan Education Association president Paula Herbart said for a story that appeared in The Mining Journal on Monday. “We’re always going to have children. We’re always going to need teachers. And then it’s also about making sure our message to legislators, business and philanthropic groups across the state is that we are admirable human beings who work for the betterment of our society as a whole.”

Like most nettlesome problems involving money, there are no easy solutions here. Many school districts we’re aware of often struggle to pass millages of any sort. At the state-level, while Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has proposed a significant increase in kindergarten through 12th-grade education spending for next year, it’s not going to solve all of the problems everywhere.

In the meantime, many school districts continue battling low teacher retention rates, something that can be devastating to students.

Our advice? Get educated about education in your district, region and state and take that knowledge into the ballot box the next time your district asks for millage. Vote not only with your heart but your head.

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