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More teachers skipping out of school ... for good

A student raises their hand in a classroom.
Brynn Anderson
/
AP
A student raises their hand in a classroom.

An NEA survey finds over half of U.S. teachers are thinking of leaving the profession

A new survey from the National Education Association warns that the current shortage of teachers may be just the beginning. “55% of educators report that they plan to leave the profession early,” said Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association, the largest labor union in the country.

Pringle says they put the survey out in the field because of rumblings she heard from teachers around the country last spring. “I started hearing educators, our teachers and support staff, talk about the overwhelm and the stress. They were looking forward to the new school year and we thought things would be better, and then (the) Delta (variant of the coronavirus happened), and (the) Omicron (variant). And I was hearing increasing numbers of educators saying they just couldn’t do it anymore.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently more than half a million (567,000) fewer educators in America’s public schools today than there were before the pandemic, and filling those positions has been difficult. Nationwide there is an average of one educator hired for every two job openings. That has put an additional burden on the teachers who remain.

“80% of them said that they had to take on more obligations than just teaching their classes because their schools couldn’t fill positions. Either they couldn’t hire enough teachers or support staff, or because of the storages of (substitute teachers). It was alarming.”

 Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association
Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association

The survey was conducted nationwide between January 14 and 24th. In addition to asking about problems, educators were asked for solutions. The answer almost universally was raising educator salaries. Providing additional mental health support for students, hiring more teachers and support staff, and less paperwork were the next most popular answers.

Pringle says that the current shortage of teachers is happening in all parts of the country. “We’re seeing this mass exodus pretty universally. That’s part of what’s so shocking about it. We’ve always had low salaries in our southern and some of our western states, and mostly what we had seen over the years with those states (was) our educators crossing the border and going to other states where there were higher salaries.”

The highest teacher salaries according to the NEA are in the northeast. New York leads the nation in average teacher pay at $85,889 per year. Mississippi is last at $45,105. Florida is near the bottom at $48,314 a year.

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Bob Barrett has been a radio broadcaster since the mid 1970s and has worked at stations from northern New York to south Florida and, oddly, has been able to make a living that way. He began work in public radio in 2001. Over the years he has produced nationally syndicated programs such as The Environment Show and The Health Show for Northeast Public Radio's National Productions.