More Texas teachers are considering leaving the field than any time in the last 42 years, according to the Texas State Teachers Association.
Seventy percent of teachers were “seriously considering” quitting their jobs after the 2021-22 school year, according to new survey results from the TSTA. This is an increase from 2018, when 53% of teachers reportedly considered leaving the field.
Researchers from Sam Houston State University surveyed 688 teachers in the late spring and early summer this year, according to a news release. The TSTA began administering the biennial survey in 1980 but did not collect results in 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Several factors contributed to low teacher morale, according to the TSTA. Many teachers are still feeling increased stress from the pandemic, but reports showed that low salaries and pressure from parents and state officials also hurt teachers.
Approximately 11.5% of teachers left their jobs at Texas public schools before the 2021-22 school year, according to a report from the Texas Education Agency. That is over 42,000 teachers, which was the highest attrition rate since the 2007-08 school year, when TEA began collecting annual data.
Clay Robison, the TSTA's public affairs specialist, said the attrition rate was likely higher ahead of the 2022-23 school year, based on the high volume of job postings on school websites across the state.
“Many teachers actually quit during the middle of the past school year, and they will show up [in] the attrition rate for the upcoming year,” Robison said.
The TEA reported that nearly 43,000 teachers were hired for the 2021-22 school year.
On March 7, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called for the formation of a task force to help address school staffing shortages. The TEA launched the Teacher Vacancy Task Force a few days later. The task force, which includes teachers and administrators from around the state, meets once every two months.
The average salary for Texas teachers was $59,000, the survey results showed. This is roughly $7,000 below the national average of $66,397, according to the National Education Association.
NEA reported that, when adjusted for inflation, teachers made $2,150 less on average in 2022 than they did in 2012.
Robison said lawmakers should focus on funding schools during the 2023 legislative session. According to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, lawmakers will have an extra $27 billion to spend, thanks to unexpectedly high state revenue.
“This state has a lot of needs, but one of the greatest needs is public education. We think [lawmakers] should spend a good amount of that money for significant increases in support of public schools,” Robison said.
This would mean increasing the salaries of school employees, providing schools with more classroom resources and improving benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, he said.
The TSTA reported that one-fourth of Texas educators held secondary jobs to make ends meet during the school year, while 55% had jobs during summer break. Over 80% of teachers with extra jobs said they believed these roles hurt the quality of their teaching, but many teachers told the TSTA they would need an estimated raise of $12,000 to only work one job.
And 82% of teachers reported increased financial pressures during the pandemic. Teachers spent about $846 of their own money for classroom supplies during the 2021-22 school year, which TSTA officials said rose from $738 in 2018.
Although teacher salaries rose by $5,779 annually since 2018, TSTA officials said health insurance premiums also rose by about $2,136 per year. According to the release, the state has not increased its contribution to teachers’ insurance premiums in 20 years.
Texas educators also felt legislative support for schools had decreased. About 85% of survey respondents said state leaders and lawmakers have a negative view of teachers, according to the TSTA. Meanwhile, 70% of teachers said parental support decreased during the pandemic.
Robison said Texas lawmakers must enact stronger gun laws to help prevent future school shootings. It is too easy for dangerous people to access guns, he explained.
“Locking doors is important; safety audits are important,” Robison said, “... But you have to tighten up on the availability of the guns.”
During the second special legislative session of 2021, lawmakers approved Senate Bill 3, which modifies the state’s social studies curriculum and prohibits certain discussions about race and sex. The bill, which replaced House Bill 3979, was an attempt to “abolish” critical race theory, according to reporting by The Texas Tribune.
“Teachers have been working for years with inadequate funding and a lack of respect from state leaders,” TSTA President Ovidia Molina said in the release. “It is time for these leaders to wake up to the crisis they are causing our public schools and put education over politics.”
The TSTA survey was conducted online and included teachers from all grade levels with an average of 16 years of teaching experience. Educators from urban, suburban and rural school districts were surveyed.