While many school districts are struggling to hire staff all across the state, a survey released by The Texas State Teachers Association (TSTA) on Monday, August 8, shows a record 70% of teachers in Texas are thinking of resigning.
Inspired by the belief that “for the previous several years we had witnessed a serious deterioration of morale among public school teachers,” the TSTA conducted its first survey in 1980. At the time the survey found that 22% of the participant teachers were forced to moonlight during the summer breaks in order to meet monthly living expenses and one in three teachers were seriously considering leaving the profession. In light of this, the study predicted a painful teacher shortage was on the horizon.
Over forty years later, that prediction proved to be correct.
TSTA’s latest survey shows that four out of every ten teachers took extra jobs during the school year to meet their financial needs. And 87% said they would quit moonlighting, as it affects the quality of their teaching, but in order to afford it, they’d need a $12,000 pay raise.
“The average salary of the respondents was $59,000, more than $7,000 below the national average, while their take-home earnings continued to be eroded by rising health insurance premiums and classroom expenses for which they were not reimbursed,” states TSTA’s press release. The average increase in annual salaries was $5,779 in 2018, yet much of it was lost to an average $2,136 increase in annual health insurance premiums. “The state has not increased its share of educator insurance premiums in 20 years, despite the ever-rising cost of health care.”
But pay was not the only issue pointed out by the participant teachers.
The lingering stress of the pandemic took a toll on the profession’s quality conditions. Around 94% of survey respondents said there was an increase in the stress in their professional lives during the pandemic and 84% reported their workload and planning requirements had increased too.
The polarizing political climate has also affected morale. There’s a widespread belief among teachers (85%) that they’ve lost support from leaders and legislators, and 70% also believe they’ve lost parental support during the pandemic, a backing that is critical for a successful public education system.
“For political reasons, Gov. Abbott has been trying to drive a wedge between parents and teachers, and this has definitely hurt teachers and hurt their students as well. It threatens the future of public education in Texas,” Molina said. The last survey, conducted in 2018 (there was none in 2020) showed that 49% of teachers said the general public didn’t have a positive opinion of teachers. This number has jumped to 65% for this year’s survey.
“Teachers have been working for years with inadequate funding and a lack of respect from state leaders,” said Molina. “It is time for these leaders to wake up to the crisis they are causing our public schools and put education over politics.”