Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes ofwebsite accessibilityMichigan educators applaud Whitmer's $2.3 billion proposal to recruit, retain new teachers | WWMT
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Michigan educators applaud Whitmer's $2.3 billion proposal to recruit, retain new teachers

Pictured is an Otsego Schools classroom. Gov. Whitmer's proposed bill would{ }give all full-time K-12 public employees $2,000. (Courtesy: Otsego Schools/WWMT)
Pictured is an Otsego Schools classroom. Gov. Whitmer's proposed bill would give all full-time K-12 public employees $2,000. (Courtesy: Otsego Schools/WWMT)
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West Michigan educators said they are hopeful Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's latest budget proposal will get the stamp of approval Wednesday from the Republican-controlled Legislature.

In an effort to address the educator shortage throughout the state, Whitmer proposed spending $2.3 billion over four years to recruit and retain teachers and other school staff, enticing them with annual $2,000 bonuses that would grow to $4,000 by 2025.

"We're in such a conundrum to where we don't have enough teachers in the classroom, let alone qualified and certified teachers in the classroom," Brett Geier, an associate professor of educational leadership in K-12 leadership at Western Michigan University said.

"I think it's a very good step forward."

According to her plan, starting in the fall, all full-time K-12 public employees would get $2,000, with part-timers receiving less based on their hours worked.

They would also get an additional $2,000 if they come back to their district in 2023.

Teachers and other certified staff such as counselors, social workers and nurses would qualify for $3,000 in 2024 and $4,000 in 2025.

First-year teachers hired in the coming years would be eligible for the bonuses too, as well as teachers who change districts and move to a high-poverty building.

"We're seeing a lot of teachers in their first, second and third years early on that decide that teaching isn't the career that they want," Geier said. "It's not paying their bills as it should and for whatever reason, the stressors have just become too much. Which in turn means they decide to leave the profession."

Whitmer said it is a tough time to work in a school.

"Staff shortages, quarantine, increased trauma and learning loss make this job harder than ever. We have to do more to deliver for the Michiganders who show up for our kids every day." - Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The governor also requested $600 million for educator recruitment — funding college scholarships for would-be educators, stipends for student teachers, training, and expanded programs to attract and keep teachers in their own communities.

Nearly $200 million would go towards helping and mentoring new educators and addressing regional retention needs.

"Certainly there are a variety of reasons as to why education, in general, has been underfunded over the last 10 or 15 years," Geier said. "We're not seeing the revenue keep up with things like inflation, the retirement system, insurance, health insurance costs and other things that districts have to pay."

"I think the fact that they're, they're putting money into the salaries and into retention is a very good start," Geier said. "I'm really glad to see that the governor is embracing some of these recommendations."

In December, the governor signed legislation letting schools use non-teaching staff as substitute teachers for the rest of the academic year. A new bill, pending in the House, would allow student teachers to temporarily fill vacancies.

Whitmer plans to ask that the vast majority of the $2.3 billion in funding be allocated in the current fiscal year rather than the budget starting this fall.

She previously said she will propose the biggest education funding hike in more than 20 years, including aid to fund more mental health employees in schools.

"I think it's very important that we do fund education appropriately, now," Geier said. "I think we also have to be strategic about it as well."

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"I think we really need to see some funding also put into early education, poor school districts and getting salaries back to a competitive stage," Geier said.

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