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EAST LANSING, Mich. — As more teachers begin to retire, Michigan and other states across the nation are facing a crisis- a shortage of educators. While the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly worsened the situation, the issues driving this crisis have been present for years.

Over the last few years, the state has seen over a 50 percent decline in college enrollment in education courses. Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart says some state lawmakers are partially responsible for the situation.

“There are a significant amount of legislatures trying to crush our public education system,” Herbart said. “They’re doing it by starving our teachers.”

A combination of teacher evaluations that are tied heavily to standardized tests and a low salary also contribute to the shortage. Michigan is ranked 41 in the nation in teacher salary. Educators also feel like they are not involved in the decisions surrounding their careers.

“We need to make sure that when we’re making decisions that happens to student learning and educators,” Herbart said. “That we have educators a part of all of those decisions.”

Another big issue is student teaching, aspiring educators have to pay for their credits while essentially teaching for free.

“If I’m a student teacher, I have to pay full tuition to student teach,” Herbart said. “I have to student teach full time, 5 days a week, and in order to pay for my college I have to have a second job. We don’t do that with any other profession.”

With the issues that the pandemic has caused, Herbart says it’s still very important to invest in public education. After all- the children are the future.

“They educate the future citizens of the state of Michigan,” Herbart said. “I don’t think  we can say it any clearer than that. The young, Kindergarten teacher is working with the next Senator of Michigan.”