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Whitmer holds back-to-school call with educators

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Governor Gretchen Whitmer addressed on an online meeting Monday of school superintendents and administrators facing the challenges of a return to full-time in-classroom learning accompanied by staff shortages.

The governor acknowledged a record $9,150 in per-student funding, and more money for recruitment and retention may not be enough to reverse staff shortages that began before the issues created by COVID-19.

“We’ve known this day was coming, and it’s only been exacerbated by the COVID pandemic,” she said.

The K-through-12 schools budget – adopted with wide bipartisan support – also has more money for mental health services, at-risk programs, and infrastructure improvement. But the governor, without offering details, said there is still more work to do to support teachers, staff and students as they return to classrooms.

“Whether it’s driving the kids to school or serving them lunch or is in the administration office or certainly in front of the classroom, it’s crucial,” she said. “And, so these are some of the steps we’ve taken but we recognize there’s more work to do here and we’re eager to partner with you to make sure that we’re all successful in getting this done.”

Tina Kerr with the Michigan Association of Superintendents and Administrators was also on the call.

“The educator shortage is very real for our districts across the state,” she said. “This is really both a short-term and a long-term problem that we’re dealing with. We didn’t get here overnight, and we can’t expect to snap our fingers and have it go away.”

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Rick Pluta is the managing editor for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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