‘Low salary, lack of respect’: Districts begin school year short-staffed

Kent County

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — School districts in Michigan and across the country are having trouble hiring. Leaders in the field say many people left during the pandemic and they’re heading into the school year understaffed.

School leaders are hoping to fill that gap as kids head back to school.

“There’s low salary, lack of respect, and constant intrusion into the operations of school by the legislature and by others. If you look at the challenges that our teachers have had to face during this period, it’s been remarkable. They truly are among the heroes,” said Ron Koehler, the superintendent of the Kent Intermediate School District, serving more than 120,000 students in West Michigan.

He says as students head back to the classroom, they might not have enough staff in place to get the job done.

“There’s going to be a great demand for teachers in the future that we may not be able to fill,” said Koehler.

According to an educator survey by Launch Michigan, only three in ten teachers would recommend education as a career field. It also says the biggest way they would feel more respected is by getting a higher salary, followed by having more input in policy decisions and giving teachers more power over what and how they teach.

Koehler says the state has also reached out to many retired teachers, hoping to bring them back on staff.

“It’s those types of initiatives that we hope will bring people back into the field,” said Koehler.

He wants people to know that pursuing a career in education is still rewarding and he wishes more educators would reconsider coming back to make a difference.

“What could be more important than preparing all of our students for success in their careers, to help every young person fulfill their potential? There’s nothing more important than preparing children for a full and rewarding life,” said Koehler.

Koehler says most open positions are in early childhood education. A full list of available jobs can be found at KentISD.org

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