Michigan Teachers Feel Devalued, Disrespected, Survey Shows

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

(Photo: Flickr, Creative Commons)

The Michigan Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan have revealed the results of their first joint survey among 10,889 participants, finding that low morale, a lack of motivation and increasing concerns about compensation, pension, and performance evaluations were among the most important findings of the survey.

According to the survey, Michigan teachers felt demoralized, discontent, and dissed. The unions conducted the study over a one-week period last spring. It included PreK-12 educators and support staff, higher education teachers and administrative personnel, as well as retirees of all groups.

As Brian McVicar of MLive noted, nearly 52.2 percent of the respondents said they did not think they would be able to retire comfortably. Steven Cook, President of the Michigan Education Association, commented that due to the US broken school funding system, many educators made several thousand less per year than compared to previous years. According to CBS Detroit, 80 percent of the school employees claimed they were under-compensated for the job they did. Furthermore, only 7 percent of the respondents said the recent changes in the evaluation system had a positive influence on their work.

When asked to list the most concerning problems in education, 33.65 percent said remuneration; 18 percent noted too much – standardized testing, and 15.92 percent named evaluations; outsourcing/privatization was an issue for just 5.15 percent of the respondents.

42.9 percent of the participants said that their bargaining unit had to accept a concessionary contract to avoid job losses during the past five years, noted Shawn D. Lewis of the Detroit News. While 43.4 percent of the respondents valued their support as average, 16 percent complained they received barely any support when implementing new educational standards and curriculum in the classroom.

As far as school safety and working conditions were concerned, the main issues were unreliable heating-cooling (57 percent), damaged walls/ceilings (39 percent), and poor air quality (nearly 35 percent). As Ann Zaniewski of the Detroit Free Press noted, nearly 51 percent of the educators admitted that their students did not have adequate access to technology. More than 42 percent of their students have inadequate access to library services and art.

Steven Cook confirmed he was not surprised by the results:

"If there were any surprises, it was the depth of feeling how strongly they felt about a number of issues. That was a little surprising, but the overall results weren't."

David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, agreed with his colleague Cook and said both unions are working hard to put together a policy platform to address all the issues raised in the survey. Hecker pointed out that the current teacher evaluations were inconsistent and focused on the punishment of the teachers, not on improving their abilities.

Both Hecker and Cook said the survey results demonstrated the increasing need for immediate changes in the education system in Michigan. According to the union leaders, the key takeaway from the study was the widespread dissatisfaction among public school employees that lawmakers need to address quickly.

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