In Texas, as the start of the school year loomed, the loss of teachers—and figuring out how to stop them from leaving—became so dominant in the conversation that Gov. Greg Abbott created a task force to examine the issue.
A recent survey released by the Charles Butt Foundation gives us more clues as to why it’s happening. It polled almost 1,300 Texas public school teachers last spring and found that 77 percent were seriously considering leaving the profession in 2022, compared to 58 percent in 2020.
“Regression analysis finds that women and teachers who live in urban areas are, on average, more apt than men and those in suburban areas to have seriously considered leaving their position, holding other demographic factors constant,” the report said. “Seriously considering leaving is not independently predicted by salary, tenure, educational attainment, or race/ethnicity; rather, it is a widespread phenomenon throughout these groups.”
But that’s not the data point that gives us the answer to why teachers are leaving.
One of the questions teachers answered was whether they felt valued. Across the board, the feeling that parents, their bosses, the community, Texans, and state elected officials valued the work that teachers do was substantially lower than it was two years ago.
In 2020, 54 percent said they felt valued by their community. In 2022, that was 20 points lower. In 2022, 17 percent of teachers felt that Texans valued their work, compared to 44 percent two years ago. Only 5 percent felt that elected officials valued their contributions, compared to 20 percent in 2020.
The survey also revealed what teachers felt would move the needle when it comes to retention—more money was one (91 percent), and more districtwide days off for teacher and student well-being (85 percent). But some of the requests had a great deal to do with doing their job better. For instance, they want more time in the day for lesson planning, more opportunities for autonomy and creativity in the classroom.
Teachers are called upon to do quite a bit beyond teaching reading, writing, and arithmetic. You can find them manning food pantries at their schools, leading after school activities, and supporting students in ways that aren’t in any of their textbooks. The survey found that 98 percent of Texas teachers spent their own money on classroom supplies, and 89 percent of teachers working a second job are doing so during the school year, and 52 percent said they have done work for pay in addition to their teaching job in the past year.
Maybe it’s time to create policy—and a pay scale—that reflects that.