We’ve all heard about the dearth of teachers in Michigan. Efforts by the state to coax retired educators back to the classroom by easing recertification mandates are the right idea, but it should scrap a program that’s a clear boon to the teachers union.
Even after the pandemic, the shortage of classroom instructors isn’t going away. The Michigan Department of Education should pursue broader reforms that would make it easier for teachers to get in front of kids now — and down the road.
It should simply do away with unnecessary requirements such as forcing former teachers to go through 150 hours of professional development training to get their teaching license recertified.
That’s a high bar to reentry, and state education officials are seeking to lower it. But the current remedy gives too much control to the Michigan Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, in determining who can come back.
Local school districts should make their own decisions about what returning teachers must do and should not tie them to union fees as a prerequisite.
The pandemic has not been easy on students or teachers. Uncertainty and virtual learning have led teachers to leave their jobs in droves. Their exodus has made the pre-COVID teacher shortage more dire.
Last year, 7,001 school employees retired. That’s up from 6,250 in 2019, and more teachers are leaving mid-year than previous years.
Many, however, do want to come back after being out of the profession for several years. Some of these returning teachers have district sponsorships, which reduce recertification stipulations.
For those looking to jump back in without a sponsor, the MEA and the state have crafted a sweet deal for the union.
Teachers without sponsorships can waive the hours of recertification only if they opt for the MEA’s Teacher Re-Entry Program and pay the union $100 a year.
Once teachers are hired by districts, the MEA clearly hopes these provisional members will become full-paying dues members. In the meantime, it looks like the union is close to sidestepping provisions of the right-to-work law barring compulsory union dues and fees.
It’s an unnecessary shakedown that could deter those who want to teach, but don’t want a union card. The arrangement does nothing to assure the quality of returning teachers.
“These professional development credits are silly and typically worthless,” says the Mackinac Center’s Jarrett Skorup. “If they are important, the school districts themselves should require this 150 hours. But, except that they are forced to by the state, I doubt any school would require it or that any teacher would go through them.”
This seems more about bolstering union membership than retraining teachers who have already been trained and have spent time in the classroom. The MEA has lost 29% of its membership since Michigan became a right-to-work state in 2013.
“It’s insidious that the state is trying to encourage union membership by pushing people without a district sponsor toward the MEA,” Skorup says.
There’s a need to get more teachers back in the classroom. The state should make the process as painless as possible by making current waivers to the requirements the rule. It can do that without the MEA’s help.
— THE DETROIT NEWS