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Education

Coronavirus continues to exacerbate existing school funding, staffing problems

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Michigan K-12 schools say they’re struggling to meet workload demands in the midst of a pandemic.

Even before the pandemic K-12 schools suffered from substitute teacher shortages. In the Spring, a survey of Michigan teachers found that nearly one-third were considering leaving the profession due to the pandemic.

The state has long struggled with both teacher and substitute shortages.

Now, some officials say those staffing stresses have only worsened.

Doug Pratt is the Public Affairs Director with the Michigan Education Association.

“We don’t have hard numbers at this point but anecdotally it’s gotten worse during this pandemic,” he said. “We’ve had school districts that had to close school buildings because they simply don’t have enough adults to cover the needs.”

Pratt said of particular concern is how first-year teachers will handle the added stress of a pandemic on top of an already stressful job.

“The workload and expectations are immense and stress levels are really high,” he said. “Which makes the health implications only worse. It’s not just teachers, it’s worth noting that support staff have stepped up in huge ways during the pandemic.”

Pratt said long-term, the state needs to improve working conditions at schools.

“A lot of these problems aren’t new,” he said. “The inequities in teacher funding, the teacher shortage, these are all things we knew before that the pandemic is laying bare.”

On Monday, the state reported more than 25 new outbreaks at schools statewide.

Pratt said schools need to focus on keeping students and staff safe but in the long term reforms are as necessary as they’ve ever been.