By JONATHAN GANCI
Capital News Service
LANSING –With a tough job market in Michigan, many graduates of teacher education programs are crossing state lines to find employment.
Roughly 5,000 of the 7,500 annual graduates of college education programs leave the state, according to the Michigan Education Association (MEA).
However, Frank Ciloski, a consultant for the MEA, said that departing graduates aren’t guaranteed jobs elsewhere as most states tighten their belts. “The market for teachers has been declining for the past couple of years, primarily because of the reduction in states’ budgets.”
There are 34 public and private colleges with teacher education programs in Michigan, according to the Department of Education.
Renee Papelian, director of professional education at Central Michigan University, said the in-state market has shrunk, especially this year with the proposed $470 per-pupil cuts in aid to public schools.
“It’s a challenging job market for teachers,” Papelian said. “The exact financial amount of funding per pupil hasn’t been solidified, so it makes it difficult for schools to confirm a budget.”
However, Papelian said that many of her university’s 570 annual education graduates landed jobs in southern states like North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Nikki Piirala, a 2009 Central Michigan graduate, said she found a job teaching high school English with relative ease in Raleigh, N.C.
According to Piirala, who is from Grand Rapids, her decision to move came after she heard of other alumni finding employment in the area.
Piirala said she began to look out of state when Cedar Springs Middle School, where she student taught, started to lay off teachers.
“I didn’t have any other connections,” Piirala said. “And if you don’t have a connection in education in Michigan, it’s pretty hard to find a job.”
Unlike some fellow graduates who stayed in Michigan, Piirala said her job security appears stable because of a population increase in the Raleigh area.
Pirrala also said her alma mater’s reputation helped. Recruiters “do look for our teaching programs. I’ve been told by people hiring Central Michigan graduates that they have been very impressed with our teaching styles.”
According to Ciloski, many out-of-state districts recruit in Michigan. “We have a reputation of solid teacher prep programs and an excess number of teachers we can employ.”
Ciloski said with graduates leaving the state, Michigan’s education system is losing talent it could hire from.
This is “primarily an issue of economics,” Ciloski said, and the state needs to increase education funding to keep graduates here.
Michelle Johnston, dean of the College of Education and Human Services at Ferris State University, said some of her graduates have successfully looked for jobs in Michigan.
Johnston said Ferris, with about 100 teacher education graduates per year, has an advantage in keeping them in the state.
“We are smaller, so we are able to have one-on-one relationships with people,” Johnston said.
Johnston said that the smaller graduating class size allows her to recommend students to districts that have openings.
Even with success in placing students in state, Johnston said there “is a little bit of a brain drain” and that graduates need to be enticed to stay in Michigan with more jobs and job security.
Johnston said that with proposed budget cuts on the horizon, job prospects for newly minted teachers is even more uncertain.
© 2011, Capital News Service, Michigan State University School of Journalism. Not to be reproduced without permission.