Three months into the school year, Detroit Public Schools is facing a teacher shortage and also seeing what union officials say seems like an unprecedented number of midyear retirements and resignations.
In early November, there were at least 170 teaching vacancies. DPS spokesman Michelle Zdrodowski said Wednesday that the number has been reduced to 135 by reorganizing some teaching assignments based on enrollment numbers from the fall student count day.
The shortage has pushed other academic staff, such as instructional specialists and school service assistants, into teaching roles. About 115 substitutes have been assigned to fill empty spots.
The problem isn't new. In late September 2014, there were more than 100 vacancies.
The problem is expected to get worse because of some vaunted new education reforminess coming down the pike:
Teachers are facing an expected spike in health care costs and heightened uncertainty about the future of the district itself. Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed sweeping education reforms for Detroit that could potentially take effect in 2016.
Those factors — plus stagnant pay — have pushed some teachers who were on the fence about retiring to finally take the plunge, said Patrick Falcusan, financial analyst and retirement counselor for the Detroit Federation of Teachers union.
"Virtually every day, somebody calls me and wants to quit or retire," he said. "A number of teachers aren't coming back after Christmas.
"What is driving this is the concern (about education reforms) and whether the new school district is going to be part of the retirement system. Some people just want to get out while there's still a DPS, while there's still an HR department, while there's still a payroll department to process stuff."
Starting salary as a DPS teacher is $36,683.
Teachers haven't gotten a salary step increase since 2011-2012.
And soon they'll be paying more for their health care and perhaps losing their pension benefits.
I can't imagine why teachers would be leaving, retiring, resigning, etc.