Why Michigan Schools Are Losing So Many Teachers

Chalkbeat reporter Koby Levin and Michigan Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono discuss the teacher turnover crisis and what it will take to solve it.

Teacher turnover is the phenomenon when schools continually lose teachers, or when teachers leave the profession entirely. In Michigan, more than 1 in 6 teachers left their jobs in the 2018-19 school year, with a much higher proportion of turnover in rural and low-income communities. Instances of teacher turnover are often credited to underfunded schools, low pay and a general lack of support. Amid virtual learning, there are concerns this problem may skyrocket even further. 

“A teacher’s sense of success is … really crucial to whether they leave or not.” –Koby Levin, Chalkbeat

Listen: Michigan Teacher of the Year Owen Bondono and Chalkbeat reporter Koby Levin on why teachers leave schools so frequently. 


Koby Levin is a reporter for Chalkbeat Detroit. He’s been tracking Michigan’s teacher turnover rates through the pandemic, which were already alarmingly high before. “Students in low-income communities are really affected more by teacher turnovers.” Levin says inadequate school support systems impact these rates. “A teacher’s sense of success … is really crucial to whether they leave or not.”

Levin says turnover numbers are going down during the pandemic, but they may increase after in-person learning returns. “In any workforce, education included, you’d expect to see turnover rates tick down during a recession,” he says. 

Owen Bondono, an English teacher at the Oak Park High School 9th Grade Learning Community, was voted 2020-2021 Michigan Teacher of the Year. He says students have the most to lose with high teacher turnover. “One of the worst things that this does is students get what I call an educational abandonment issue.” Bondono says the most important part of his job is to build relationships with students, “but if the student is already putting up walls … then it becomes incredibly difficult to do that job at all.” 

Bondono says educators aren’t given enough time or resources to effectively do their jobs. “If I only worked during my contract hours, my kids would not be getting the education they need from me,” he says. Bondono believes more teachers will leave their jobs after the pandemic. “I certainly do think that I have colleagues that are looking at exit strategies.” 

Web story written by Nora Rhein. 

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