Mental well-being—for both teachers and students—and the resources needed to achieve that were billed as a top priority in the newest 2023 Texas Teacher Poll from the Charles Butt Foundation.

The overview

This year’s report, titled “Listening to the Educator Experience,” emphasized the “hearts and minds of teachers,” said Melissa Garza, a research associate with the Charles Butt Foundation.

The newest findings show three-quarters of teachers have considered leaving the profession and are worried about a growing workload paired with shrinking resources. This number is slightly down from last year but is higher than it was several years ago.

Combined with that is a number of teachers—most prevalently younger teachers—who don’t feel mentally well at their job.

Pay also continues to be a stressor among Texas teachers, with the vast majority, 81%, reporting they feel underpaid.

Also of note

Finding out how many teachers are considering leaving their job is something the poll has focused on for years, according to the report. Results show those numbers have increased since the COVID-19 pandemic.

The increasing workload teachers are dealing with, combined with pay, are not only causing teachers to think about leaving the profession but are also prompting some to go out and look for work on the side, said Clay Robison, Texas State Teachers Association spokesperson.

To that end, 41% of teachers in spring 2022 reported working a second job during the school year to make ends meet, Robison said. That number is up from 31% in spring 2016.

“Teacher pay is more than $7,000 below the national average,” Robison said.

In their own words

The report includes quotes from different, unnamed teachers who provided feedback on their experiences.

One middle/high school teacher, for example, said in the report they feel overworked at times but feel some things need to get done.

“When I hear about teacher shortages on the news, it truly breaks my heart. I can understand why many leave, but I also understand why many choose to remain,” the teacher said in the report.

Another elementary school teacher said they never feel they have as much time as they would like.

“My time is often occupied by unnecessary tasks, meetings, etc. that take away from my main focus: my students,” the teacher said in the report.

The bottom line

There are pathways through legislation that can help correct some of the challenges teachers are facing, said Bob Popinski, senior director of policy for Raise Your Hand Texas, a nonprofit organization aimed at promoting public policy.

However, the most recent legislative session did not yield many results for public schools or teachers across Texas.

Despite having $33 billion in surplus revenue, the state passed no increase to the student allotment for schools and has yet to pass a teacher pay increase.

Meanwhile, polling from Charles Butt shows teachers feel responsible for not only teaching but for promoting mental health and safety in the classroom. Upwards of 90% of teachers said district support for campus security, supplies and student discipline were important.

While 80% said they feel they have support and resources needed to allow students to be their “genuine self,” half said they did not have adequate training or support to respond to a student mental health crisis, according to the report.

Besides pay and funding for schools, resources such as therapy, mentorship programs and training opportunities are some things that can be done to help prepare teachers for the job and feel mentally well, Popinski said. Funding for child care for teachers with children can also help lift the financial burden.

Looking ahead, officials throughout the state, including Robison, said a special legislative session aimed at addressing public schools could be coming in October. Among things that could end up on the agenda are increased revenue for schools and a pay bump for teachers.

“We’re seeing increased standards in public school but making it harder for teachers to [meet those requirements],” Popinski said.