From Bridge Magazine: Detroit’s Teacher Shortage [TRANSCRIPT]

The Detroit Public Schools Community District plans to have art and gym classes in most schools next year, according to Superintendent Nikolai Vitti. But that requires more teachers, and that’s a problem because the district can’t find enough to hire.

Officials are searching nationally for the more than 200 teachers needed to fill vacancies, reports Bridge Magazine’s Chastity Pratt Dawsey, who further breaks down how the district will try and solve the teaching shortage. 

Click here to read her article.

Jake Neher/WDET

Bridge Magazine’s Chastity Pratt Dawsey

Dawsey spoke to WDET’s Sandra Svoboda about the situation, how this affects the classroom on a daily basis and how officials say they are going to solve this issue.  

Click on the audio player above to hear their conversation. Here’s a transcript:

Chastity Pratt Dawsey: So there’s good news and there’s bad news. The Detroit public schools (district) has money to hire teachers, and for years we’ve reported on the teacher shortage. There are about 200 teacher vacancies, which means each school is short one to two teachers. This year, Nicolai Vitti, who is the superintendent for Detroit Public Schools Community District said, “look, we have some money to hire teachers. We want all the schools to have gym and art and music.” But the problem is there’s not a real big, deep pool of candidates so the district has started sending its recruiters to cities across the country, to historically black colleges and universities in the South and in the East trying to find some candidates to fill these jobs.

Sandra Svoboda: Is this a situation unique to Detroit schools or is something we’re seeing throughout Michigan or even elsewhere in the country?

CPD: This is a national problem. This is very definitely a statewide problem. Here in the Detroit area you see school districts poaching and teachers leaving Detroit to go to the inner ring suburbs. People are retiring. You have the baby boomers retiring in large numbers so the teacher shortage is very definitely not just a Detroit thing. With all of the academic and financial difficulties, Detroit has seen over the past several years, their ability to recruit and retain teachers are intensified.

SS: Within the education community, what are different groups, different people saying the solution to this problem is?

CPD: The unions, obviously would say, If you paid better, you wouldn’t have to dig so deep and go across the country and find people. You would have candidates running toward you if you paid better. That’s a fair assumption, however, you have a school district that has achievement gap problems, has had very deep long-standing issues so even if they paid better some people say it would still be very difficult for the Detroit schools to hire people very easily.

SS: What’s the direct impact in the classroom? What does it mean for the students of the district now?

CPD: This is why you see overcrowded classes, because of teacher shortages. When each school has one to two teachers short, then you’re going to have overcrowded classrooms Not only that, you’re going to have inexperienced teachers. You’re going to have long-term substitutes teaching in permanent positions. Those are people who don’t have the experience of veteran teachers teaching children again, in Detroit. You have a situation where students who need the most are getting the least, the least experienced teacher and the least number of teachers.

SS: You’ll be following this story for Bridge Magazine. What are some of the next steps? What will you be watching for in the next several months?

CPD: We’ll be watching in June to see what the budget looks like for Detroit, to see if they have found more ways to squeeze more positions out of their budget, to see if they actually have filled some of these gaps through their national recruiting efforts.

Image credit: Bridge Magazine

This post is a part of Detroit Journalism Cooperative.

The DJC is a partnership of six media outlets focused on telling critical stories of Detroit and creating engagement opportunities on-air, online and in the community. View the partners work at

Support for this project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



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Support for WDET's work with The Detroit Journalism Cooperative comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Renaissance Journalism’s Michigan Reporting Initiative and the Ford Foundation.



About the Author

Sandra Svoboda

Special Assignments Manager

Recovering Bankruptcy Reporter/Blogger looking forward to chronicling regional revitalization on-air, digitally and through community engagement.   Follow @WDETSandra

Vincent Craig

Special Assignments Associate Producer

Avid sports fan with a knack for enjoying the support roles

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