Too many teachers being trained in Michigan---and no wonder, the benefits are great

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Recent research shows that three out of four of Michigan's newly minted teachers cannot find jobs in their home state. This combination of a teacher glut and a declining student population is forcing most recent grads (excepting, of course, math, science and special ed trainees) to begin their careers elsewhere.

Michigan's subsidy amounts to $23,200 for each teacher who completes four years of study at a public university. The state estimates that roughly 5,000 trained teachers graduate from both public and private universities each year who don't end up teaching in Michigan classrooms.

Perhaps the state should reconsider its cozy relationship with ed schools that continue to suck up state tax dollars for educating teachers that the state doesn't need. With a bit of pressure, these schools might come up with some creative new ideas to lure aspiring teachers into high-need areas that could stay in the state.

Also long overdue for a close inspection is how ed schools prepare special ed teachers. A quick sampling of the programs at a few schools reveals just what a bungling mess it is. For example, Eastern Michigan University requires no less than 76 credit hours of professional coursework for its special education teacher candidates, equivalent to two and a half majors. An eager young freshman would most likely take one look at that quantity of courses (to say nothing of their quality) and pick a less cumbersome teaching area.

Teacher benefits. Not surprisingly, Michigan's ed schools aren't the only ones swallowing up state funds. An article in the Detroit Free Press explores the good deal teachers still get when it comes to their health insurance compared to the private sector--and from districts that can no longer afford to be so generous. The growing cost of health insurance--$11,300 on average for each employee--is eating up nearly 18 percent of school districts' budgets. According to a survey by Standard and Poor's, employee benefits cost Michigan school districts 42 percent more than the national average in 2004.