News Story

Union Head: GOP Made Teaching Undesirable; 952 Apply for One Opening

Spot-shortages for some specialties, but ample applicants overall suggest 'shortage' claims political

Steve Cook, the head of the state’s largest teachers union, has led an ongoing campaign of accusing Republicans of having made the teaching profession undesirable in Michigan.

“Nobody wants to be a teacher anymore, and I can’t blame them,” Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, told a student newspaper earlier this year.

Union officials, some public school administrators and some teachers have supported the campaign with claims of a chronic teacher shortage in the state of Michigan. This year, that chatter has escalated.

Meanwhile, at Novi Community School District, there were 952 applicants for one teaching job this year.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has submitted document requests to several school districts to discover many people have applied for open teaching positions. If the claims of Cook and his allies are correct, there should be few applicants.

That’s not what the response from one Oakland County district showed. Novi schools posted 66 job openings and on average, 123 people applied for each position. Two of the 66 positions received just three applicants, but 20 positions had more than 100 applicants. One received 952.

Novi Superintendent Steve Mathews didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Previous Michigan Capitol Confidential stories have reported similar patterns in each district that has responded.

Mike Antonucci has for years reported on the teaching profession for the Education Intelligence Agency. He says the National Education Association has been sounding alarms on teacher shortages for nearly 100 years.

Antonucci pointed to an October 1921 editorial the NEA published that said, “Is there a teacher shortage today? There is only one answer to this question. There is still an appalling lack of trained teachers throughout the country.”

Antonucci also confirmed what the records of many Michigan school districts show.

“There are, and have been, chronic shortages of teachers in specific subjects — namely math, science and special education,” Antonucci said in an email. “But about half of all public school teachers hold elementary school certification, of which there is an oversupply. There are few financial incentives for teachers to enter shortage areas or retrain for them.”

In Michigan, almost every school district pays teachers under a union contract that bases compensation solely on the basis of years of service and the number of college credits earned.

But at least one school district acknowledges that schools must have more flexibility to fill specialty positions for which there are shortages.

The union contract at Holly Area School District gives the superintendent the authority to start a newly hired teacher in a “difficult-to-fill” position at a higher pay.