Michigan’s shortage of special education teachers is worsening during the pandemic.
This shortage prompts the state to ease restrictions just to fill in the gaps, but those directly affected by the problem say the state must act before the problem gets out of hand.
“This was a 40% increase in retirement over last year’s numbers,” said Kate Dupuis, a special education teacher at Carrollton Public Schools.
Dupuis said the statewide teacher shortage is severe and growing. She is also the mother of a daughter with special needs.
“So it’s a big effect for me as a mother to lose these teachers, because it affects me as a mother because then I only have those years to make sure she gets the skills.” , said Dupuis.
Dupuis attributed the shortages to teacher burnout, inflexible standardized assessments, the high cost of education needed to go into the field and, of course, the pandemic.
“It’s going to continue to rise because of COVID,” said Abby Cypher, executive director of the Michigan Association of Special Education Administrators.
Cypher said there was already a severe shortage before COVID and things are not improving.
State Superintendent Dr Michael Rice even announced a waiver request for special education teachers to step out of their specialty to teach a wider range of students with special needs.
But Cypher doesn’t think that’s enough and calls on heads of state to come up with a plan.
“Look what we have, what we need,” Cypher said. “What does our data say and then create a strategic action plan to move forward. We don’t see people going into the field, we have more programs, more Michigan teacher preparation programs closed each year than we have opened. “
Cypher adds that more emphasis needs to be placed on the well-being of teachers. She said they saw teachers struggling with their mental health throughout the pandemic, like healthcare workers.
If nothing changes, Dupuis said it will bleed into the next school year and beyond.
“My need for help grows, I’m still a person who loves to help and I do. It’s just that I don’t know if I can survive on my own and keep going, ”said Dupuis.