TEXAS, USA — Teachers within the Texas public school system are thinking about getting out of the business at a very high rate, according to a recently released statewide survey.
About 66% of educators in Texas said they have recently considered leaving their jobs, according to a survey released Monday by the Texas American Federation of Teachers.
The union's president, Zeph Capo, said teachers’ discontent has been "festering" for a long time but has increased over the past couple of years due to concerns about COVID-19 safety and health.
“The fact that two-thirds of educators are thinking about quitting is really frightening," Capo said in a press release. "In addition to long-neglected low wages and the stress of increasing workloads, the Omicron surge has created unbelievable chaos. Educators witness every day the devastating effects on our students when schools have staffing shortages. It’s only going to get worse unless teachers’ concerns are addressed.”
This survey comes during a time when there is also many superintendents leaving the industry in many parts of Texas and the United States. In North Texas specifically, nine superintendents from nine local school districts have announced they are leaving, resigning or retiring from their leadership positions since November 2021.
Capo also led a virtual conference Monday, walking through the details of the survey and taking questions from other members and teachers. The Texas American Federation of Teachers survey was compromised of 3,800 Texas union members and was conducted in November 2021.
"We're not going to be able to keep up with the number of people who are eligible to retire right now," Capo said during the virtual conference.
Teachers reconsidering their job field blamed low pay, increasing workload, and concerns for their safety, according to the survey.
When asked what would make teachers stay in public education, the members of the Texas American Federation of Teachers surveyed said the top changes would be:
- 45% said they want pay incentives
- 35% said they want changes to workload
- 8% said they want workplace safety improvements
“Teachers need a livable salary that allows them to live in the same district they work in,” Capo said in the press release. "They need a saner workload that doesn’t make them sacrifice every evening and weekend with their families. And they strongly believe that we need fully funded schools, so they don’t have to spend $400 out of their pocket each year to stock their classrooms. And they want a safe working environment.”
Another survey from this union released in January showed only 12% of the 2,500 respondents felt safe being on campus during the Omicron surge.
During the press conference, AFT played pre-recorded videos from four teachers across the state.
“At the beginning of the school year, I had a seizure,” Irving ISD’s George Cuba, a math teaching assistant, said. “Neurologist said most likely explanation is stress. And so by possibly just having to start the full school year in still pandemic conditions eats at you. It demoralizes you essentially.”
“Over the years, I've come to realize that it is unsustainable: Salary-wise, health- and safety-wise, especially in the past two years. But I'm quitting because of the health and safety concerns,” Houston ISD teacher Nicolette Balogh said.
“In some ways, the pandemic has gotten worse. We got this incredibly contagious variant going around and lots of people were getting sick,” New Caney ISD teacher Shana Pawlowski said. “A lot of teachers, myself included just don't feel safe.”
Luis Garza is a high school English teacher in McAllen ISD. He said safety protocols need to be stricter.
“Teachers, staff, and students are not required to wear masks on campus, which is driving numbers up," Garza said in the press release. "I’ve personally had a large number of students out this semester. That leaves the question of my personal safety and of my students always at the forefront of my thinking. It adds to the stress of a far bigger workload this semester. It’s no wonder I hear from colleagues wondering if it’s time to call it quits."
Capo said in addition to the problem of relaxing safety protocols, members surveyed in January also noted the side effects of the surge. Teachers said they are personally paying for N95 masks. Bus drivers said they are covering two or three routes each day. Nurses said they are left alone with no one available to help, spending 95% of their time testing students and staff for COVID or doing contact tracing.
During the virtual conference, Capo also said the negative attitude many people are starting to have towards teachers is impacting this desire to work in different fields.
He said some teachers feel state leadership and some politicians don’t respect public school educators and are scapegoating them for the challenges in schools.
"Oftentimes, they're leaving not just because of the salary," Capo said. "It is because of the respect issue. It is because of the fact that our state has created such a crisis with how they are telling people how to teach with the lack of support and the demeaning attitude that people don't feel like they are completely and solely responsible for everything that's wrong with public education."
The American Federation of Teachers said a nationwide survey showed parents support their schools and teachers.
- 72% say their children’s public school provides them with an excellent or good quality education.
- 78% think the quality and performance of their children’s teachers are excellent or good.
- 79% are satisfied with their children’s public schools when it comes to helping their children reach their full potential
This survey was made up of 1,308 parents and was conducted in December 2021.