LANSING — House Democratic Floor Leader Christine Greig (D-Farmington Hills) joined 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.

Several Senate and House Democratic Caucus members attended the press conference as co-sponsors in support of Senate Bills 25, 724-725 and 764-782, along with a Madonna University professor who worked closely with Sen. Hopgood on the legislation, as well as representatives from the American Federation of Teachers – Michigan and the Michigan Education Association. House Democrats will be introducing similar bills later today.

“When it comes to educating our children, Republicans’ continual cuts have failed our teachers and our kids,” Sen. Hopgood said. “Michigan teachers need our support, and our kids simply deserve to have good schools with good teachers, which is why we’ve introduced our TeA+chers for Michigan plan.”

The 22-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.

“This is a commonsense plan that will undoubtedly help prepare and support every teacher in Michigan as they ready themselves, and their students, for our increasingly competitive, global economy,” said Julie Rowe, Legislative Mobilization Coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers – Michigan.

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.

“We need to attract the brightest teachers to districts that need highly skilled educators, and Michigan teachers need to be valued,” said Michele A. Harmala, Ph.D., the Graduate Director at Madonna University. “I can’t wait to go back to my students in metro Detroit and tell them that because of the opportunities being worked on with this package of bills, their future — as an educator — has hope.”

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.

“The profession of teaching needs to be restored with the right incentives and tools in order to make Michigan a place where people want to teach,” Sen. Hopgood said. “With the TeA+chers for Michigan plan, we can keep top-notch educators right here in Michigan so that we can cultivate the talent we already know we have — and set our students up for success in the process.”