A statewide survey by the Charles Butt Foundation found 77% of Texas teachers have seriously considered leaving their job in the last year.

This figure was presented in front of a panel of Leander ISD and Round Rock ISD teachers at the 2023 South by Southwest EDU Conference on March 7. Additionally, 93% of those teachers said they have taken steps to leave the profession, such as updating their resumes or applying for a job outside of teaching. Combined with data showing more than half of all new teachers are leaving after five years, it has left advocacy groups and educators concerned for the future in public education.

“When I see these statistics about America, I worry,” said Susan Hansen, a dual-language instruction coach at LISD. “I worry that if we don’t build up our public education system with teachers at the heart of it, what will happen to our society?”

According to policy advocates, there is a five-year problem facing public education systems. A study by the University of Houston Education Research Center shows out of 16,517 people who started teaching in the 2011-12 school year, 43% found other careers after five years. After 10 years, 59% of those teachers had left the profession.

“We notice our colleagues are burning out too quickly,” JoLisa Hoover, teacher specialist with Raise Your Hand Texas, said. “It takes too long to become a teacher to have them burnout so quickly, and we can’t recruit our way out of 77% of people wanting to leave. We’re going to have to look at retention.”

Teachers whom RYHT has spoken to through listening circles—697 teachers in 79 school districts—indicate a number of factors have led to the retention shortage. Sufficient staffing at schools was one of the main contributors as teachers want to see more paraprofessionals, counselors, nurses, behavior specialists and special education professionals.

Salaries are another factor contributing to the problem, according to RYHT. Not only do teachers want better pay, but they also want better benefits, parental leave, affordable health care, salary growth with inflation and salary growth for veteran teachers.

The Charles Butt Foundation poll found 52% of Texas teachers have a second job, and 89% of those teachers work a second job during the school year. It is a situation all of the panelists were familiar with.

“I know many teachers who are going to work after they have spent hours and hours working,” LISD Science Curriculum Specialist Yisbeth Puckett said.

The SXSW panelists called for lawmakers to bolster teachers’ work-life balance. School districts throughout the state have identified several areas to do this, including making changes to House Bill 4545. Among LISD’s areas of focus with the Texas Legislature in session are amendments to HB 4545, which established requirements for schools to implement accelerated instruction. Officials with LISD as well as Stephanie Stobie, RRISD language arts and social studies teacher, want to see greater flexibility for the number of tutoring hours necessary for an individual student.

Stobie said lawmakers should stop passing unfunded mandates such as House Bill 4545, as it requires any student who does not perform well on mandatory statewide tests to receive 30 additional hours of instruction. Last year, 18 of her 42 students did not pass their exam.

“For 18 students, I had to give 30 additional hours of work documenting every minute,” she said. “There was no financial support; there was no time compensation, so our policies need to be able to improve our working conditions and make our workplace somewhere where we’re going to actually be able to do our job.”