As students graduate from the University of Michigan School of Education and look for teaching jobs here in Michigan, prospects can seem dim. During his term as governor of Michigan, Rick Snyder has increased funding for unregulated charter schools, while reducing teachers’ salaries and making teachers pay for their pensions. The state of Michigan, and specifically Governor Snyder, needs to seriously consider what they want from their school system in order to encourage talented students to become teachers, as the quality of public education in Michigan is at stake.
On May 15, Governor Snyder signed into law legislation that will lift the cap on cyber charter schools from two to five. The cap will further increase as time goes on, allowing 10 by 2014 and 15 thereafter. Cyber charter schools are funded by public money, thus traditional public schools will receive less funding. The state House of Representatives will also be voting soon on a plan that requires public school teachers to pay four to seven percent of their pension costs.
By lifting the cap on cyber charter schools, Snyder is using public money to fund an experimental type of schooling that has not yet been proven effective, nor does it operate under the standards of public schools. For-profit companies own the cyber charter schools in Michigan. Ronald Packard, chief executive of K12 — an online education organization — owns one charter school in Michigan and was paid $5 million in 2011. It can be reasonably assumed that companies who have a profit at stake may view educating children as a lower priority. Snyder is essentially handing away public dollars to an online education program that has yet to be proven beneficial for students.
On Dec. 21 2011, Snyder lifted the cap on all charter schools. While this policy opens up jobs for new graduates in the charter school system, charter schools on average pay a lower salary than public schools. Most teachers, therefore, want to work in the public school system. Public school teaching jobs, however, are decreasing as Snyder continues to fund the opening of more and more charter schools with taxpayer dollars. If Snyder wishes to attract the best and brightest into the teaching field, continuously reducing teachers’ salaries is not the best way to accomplish this.
As if the outlook for teachers didn’t already appear dismal, the Michigan House may pass a bill that requires teachers to pay more toward their own pension. Teachers who currently pay nothing would have to pay 4 percent and those currently paying between 3 and 6.4 percent would have to pay 7 percent. This is an unfair policy that only serves to take money from a group of public employees who are often overworked and underpaid.
Teaching is a valuable profession and a great career option for many students. With these new and potentially detrimental changes, however, Snyder is making the teaching profession look less and less desirable. For the sake of students’ education and teachers’ jobs, Snyder must reevaluate his changes to the school system and seriously consider if cutting public-school funds is really a wise idea.