OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. — The pandemic has added fuel to the fire and is accelerating the teacher shortage in Michigan. A shortage that has been in the making for nearly a decade. From low pay, being overworked, and being under-appreciated – these are some of the reasons why Michigan teachers have been looking for a new career.
According to the National Education Association, the starting salary is $37,549 and the average teacher salary is $63,568, ranking 16th in the United States.
But add in the pandemic, it only gets worse. Now, substitute teachers are in high demand but in short supply.
A spokesperson with the Michigan Education Association, David Crim, says it could create a chaotic learning environment for students.
"Administrators cannot find enough teachers permanently to staff their buildings," Crim said.
Crim added that the statistics behind this are startling. When the school year ended in the spring of this year, teacher retirements rose to 40 percent compared to the 2019-2020 school year.
"Colleges and universities that have teacher preparation programs, enrollment is down 50-60 percent, so we are producing half as many teachers," Crim added.
On top of that, 1 in 5 new teachers leave the profession in the first five years. The COVID-19 pandemic is a big reason.
Southfield Public Schools Supt. Doctor Jennifer Green says it is not if, but when they must quarantine. That is where they will see an issue.
"We don't have a ready supply of substitute teachers available. We are equipping each of our school buildings with a daily substitute teacher, but that's one per building," Dr. Green said.
Brad Levick is a third-grade teacher. He says teachers are nervous about going back into the classroom because of COVID-19, but for him, he says, "with proper precautions in place, I personally feel comfortable teaching in the classroom."
Oakland County Schools isnow mandating masks. The new order will impact 200,000 students.
RELATED: Dozens gather outside Oakland County Health Department to protest school mask mandate
Keeping kids safe is a top priority, but now school administrators are being pulled in two different directions by parents for and against masks.
With Oakland County adding their mask order, there are now 152 districts in Michigan with a mask policy in Oakland County.