55% of teachers planning to leave teaching or retire early, survey finds

Largest teachers union calls for pay raises, hiring, respect
The president of the National Education Association says a new survey shows the pandemic is making long-term issues for teachers worse.
Published: Feb. 1, 2022 at 8:51 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2022 at 9:58 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - The president of the National Education Association says results of a new survey show the COVID-19 pandemic is making long-term problems causing shortages and burnout in the teaching profession much worse.

“What we were surprised to find out, honestly, is that 55% of them -- 55% of educators throughout this country -- reported to us that they are planning to leave the profession or retire early,” NEA President Becky Pringle said of the survey.

The NEA, the country’s largest professional union representing 3 million educators, conducted the survey because it was hearing anecdotally about educators who were leaving, Pringle said.

The survey’s finding of 55% of teachers looking to get out of the profession is up from 37% last August, what Pringle called “a huge climb in a short period of time.”

Pringle said the survey revealed the number of teachers of color planning to leave the profession is even higher, with 62% of Black teachers and 59% of Latino teachers planning to leave.

“This is not new,” Pringle said. “This is a chronic issue of teacher shortage that we’ve been actually following for over a decade. We were very concerned at the decline in the number of college students who were choosing to go into the teacher preparation frame, and now we have the pandemic which made everything so much worse.”

Pringle said the number one issue raised by teachers is pay, but added that teachers themselves are very concerned about the mental health of students.

“To meet the needs of individual students, we have to hire more teachers and support staff, more bus drivers, more counselors and mental health professionals to meet those individual needs of our students,” she said.

The survey found that 74% of respondents said they have had to fill in for colleagues or take other duties because of staffing shortages. Eighty percent of members who participated in the survey reported unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for the educators who remain.

Pringle said while teachers and all educators are standing up for students, they cannot do it alone.

“We must have not just our community members, but all allies of our students and our public schools join us, raise their voices, use their collective power to demand that our elected and appointed officials provide the kind of sustained and equitable funding that our school systems need, so we can hire more professionals so we can ensure that our students have what they so need and deserve,” Pringle said.

She said educators, particularly teachers, have been “disregarded, disrespected and diminished” for far too long.

“We must compensate teachers and all of our educators in a way that is commensurate with the important work,” she said. “So we are calling on those elected officials at every single level from our school boards all the way up to the White House, to ensure that we have that equitable and sustained funding to do just that.”

NEA spokesman Eric Jotkoff said the survey, which was conducted between Jan. 14-24, was a nationally-representative survey of 3,621 non-retired NEA members with a 1.6 percent margin of error at the 95% confidence level.

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