School districts across the state are grappling with teacher shortages as students return to the classroom.
Feeling the squeeze, school administrators have upped recruitment efforts, granted pay raises, given retention bonuses, offered free teaching certification programs, and even adopted shorter work weeks.
Despite these efforts, teacher retirement and attrition rates remain high while morale among educators remains low.
“Lingering stress from the pandemic is a factor, but it isn’t the only one. Inadequate pay, political attacks on educators and the failure of state leaders to protect the health and safety of students and school employees also have combined to drive down the morale of teachers to the lowest level in recent memory and endanger our public school system,” Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said. “Many of these teachers will be missing from our classrooms this fall, and for others, it is only a matter of time.”
On Monday, the organization released polling results showing that 70% of members surveyed said they “were seriously considering leaving the profession as they ended a difficult school year last spring.”
The number was the highest ever recorded by the teacher moonlighting and morale survey, which has been tracking Texas teachers’ concerns since 1980.
The survey indicates the vast majority of teachers believe they have lost the support of elected state leaders as well as parents, whose support is critical to a successful public education system, the Texas State Teachers Association said.
Of those surveyed, 85% said they didn’t believe state leaders and legislators had a positive opinion of teachers, and 65% said the general public didn’t have a positive opinion of teachers either. Seventy percent of teachers who responded to the TSTA’s survey said parental support for their work also decreased during the pandemic.
Some 94% of survey respondents said the stress in their professional lives increased during the pandemic and 84% said their workload and planning requirements increased. Meanwhile, 51% said support from their school administrators fell during the pandemic.
Of the teachers answering the survey, 82% said they experienced more financial pressures during the pandemic and 41% said they took extra jobs during the school year to meet their families’ financial needs. Fifty-five percent had summer jobs.
The average salary of the respondents was $59,000. Teachers also reported spending an average of $846 out of their own pockets to purchase school supplies for their classroom.
“Abbott banned school districts from issuing mask mandates during a dangerous pandemic and, even after the tragedy in Uvalde, he refuses to address sensible gun reform,” Molina said. “Teachers have been working for years with inadequate funding and a lack of respect from state leaders. It is time for these leaders to wake up to the crisis they are causing our public schools and put education over politics.”
The online survey of 688 teacher-members of TSTA was conducted in the late spring and early summer by Robert Maninger and Casey Creghan of the School of Teaching and Learning in the College of Education at Sam Houston State University.
Teachers surveyed were from all grade levels and represented urban, suburban and rural school districts. Their average classroom experience was 16.4 years.