LANSING — State Rep. Frank Liberati (D-Allen Park) joined House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills), Sen. Hoon-Yung Hopgood (D-Taylor) and other members of the House and Senate Democrats for a press conference today to announce a TeA+chers for Michigan education plan — a 21st-century overhaul of the state’s K-12 schools — designed to prepare the best, attract the brightest and retain the finest Michigan educators.

“If we want our children to be prepared for education beyond high school and a good job, then we need to support our teachers in schools with small classes and the tools they need to help our students learn, grow and thrive,” said Liberati, a former president of the Allen Park School Board. “A good education gives our kids opportunities to build a good life for themselves, and that’s what every parent wants. I’m proud to be a part of this legislation that will support our teachers and educate our kids so they can help build a strong economy that benefits all of us.”

Liberati’s bill, House Bill 5473, addresses teacher evaluations. The multi-bill legislative package is the first comprehensive investment in Michigan’s educators in more than a decade that seeks to foster, cultivate and keep teaching talent in the Great Lakes State.

“Great education starts with great teachers,” Rep. Greig said. “For too long, though, the State of Michigan has done everything it can to discourage and denigrate the teaching profession, which has scared off our best and brightest young people from pursuing a career in the classroom. These bills would encourage college students to follow their dreams of becoming teachers and put them on the path of becoming the kind of engaged, and excited, educators our kids need.”

Under TeA+chers for Michigan, future teachers would be prepared with real classroom experience through supportive measures that include:

  • Establishing an Underrepresented Teacher Recruitment Program, designed to assist education institutions in the recruitment and retention of underrepresented groups, with stipends offered to high school students interested in attending conferences focused on the teaching profession;
  • Creating an Early Childhood Educators Act, that would provide scholarships to individuals who have worked for at least a year — and for 25 hours per week at a licensed childcare center, group home, or registered family home — to receive assistance in obtaining an associate’s or bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, or child development, at a participating college or university; and,
  • Providing stipends for student teachers serving at economically disadvantaged schools — where at least 60 percent of students are enrolled in free, or reduced, lunch programs — with a stipend not to exceed $1,000 per academic year.

Also included in the bills are several incentives to attract teachers who consider serving in economically disadvantaged schools, such as:

  • Allowing for up to 10 years of student loan debt forgiveness for teachers who are in their first three years of teaching;
  • Providing a one-time bonus between $3,000 to $5,000 for newly hired teachers, or a one-time relocation bonus for teachers moving into a district; and,
  • Awarding an annual bonus of $1,800 to math, science, and special education teachers.

Bills in the TeA+chers for Michigan education plan also aim to address the spectrum of problems that have plagued the retention issues seen in Michigan school systems in recent years, such as classrooms with too many students and school districts with too few teachers.

Some of the ideas and incentives introduced in the legislation include:

  • Establishing Mentor Teacher Pay by awarding an annual bonus between $500 to $2,000 per year to experienced teachers who mentor new teachers in their first three years of teaching;
  • Creating a Teacher Recruitment and Retention Scholarship Fund that would award scholarships of $1,000 per semester to full-time teachers attending master-level teacher education programs while serving in economically disadvantaged schools, and who are committed to serving four years of teaching post-graduation;
  • Setting a teacher-student ratio of 1:20, or one teacher per every 20 students, for kindergarten through fourth grade, with the ratio increased to 1:25 if there is a full-time paraprofessional also working in the same classroom;
  • Increasing the number of educators recognized as Teacher of the Year to 13 recipients annually, and providing each with a $1,000 award to be used for professional development, further accreditations or classroom needs; and,
  • Allowing certified teachers to request tuition reimbursement from the school district for credits taken to be awarded additional endorsements that will allow them to be qualified to teach in a critical shortage area.