Education

Survey Shows 66% of Texas Teachers Considering Leaving Their Jobs

Dallas ISD employees could earn a little extra if they stick around.
Dallas ISD employees could earn a little extra if they stick around. Getty Images
At the beginning of the school year, George Cuba had a seizure. The math teaching assistant at Irving ISD said a neurologist believed it could have been tied to stress.

“Having to start a full school year in still pandemic conditions eats at you,” Cuba said in a video published by the statewide educators’ union Texas AFT. “It demoralizes you, essentially.”

He’s not alone. Many teachers across Texas have been contending with heightened anxiety as demands on the education system are increasing. Earlier this month, Texas AFT released a survey showing that of its members, 66% have recently considered leaving their jobs.

For nearly two years, Texas teachers have had to work amid a pandemic, faced with overflowing classrooms and widespread learning loss. At the same time, stagnant wages are causing some to reconsider whether a career in education is really worth it.

Reports of teacher shortages have cropped up across the state in recent months, with at least one district recruiting parents to fill in as substitute teachers. Now, some fear that Texas’ education system is at a tipping point.
Texas AFT’s survey found that teachers might stick it out if they were offered better pay incentives, workplace safety improvements and fewer responsibilities. Respect will also go a long way toward keeping the profession moving forward, said Rob D’Amico, spokesperson for Texas AFT.

In recent days, there’s been a broader trend toward downplaying the profession, with some in leadership positions calling teachers babysitters, D’Amico said. Others have even questioned educators’ intent and motivation with a “ridiculous narrative” that they’re indoctrinators. Such treatment may cause some to reconsider their career choices.

The average teacher salary in Texas was $57,091 during the 2019–2020 school year, around $6,550 less than the national average, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Texas teachers have seen a 0% change in adjusted salary since the 1999–2000 school year.

D’Amico notes that when teachers see that, they could feel as though some in the state’s leadership don’t respect their profession enough to pay for what it's worth.

"They feel that that respect needs to come from the top levels to try and do something to bolster pay.” – Rob D'Amico, Texas AFT spokesperson

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“These are college degree-level positions with experienced people who go through a lot of training, and they’re watching our most precious resource: our kids,” he said. “So they feel that that respect needs to come from the top levels to try and do something to bolster pay.”

Some have been attempting to stave off potential teacher shortfalls. Last week, the University of Texas at Dallas announced the addition of two new bachelor’s education degrees to help prepare a greater number of future teachers.

In addition, the school’s Teacher Development Center (TDC) is allowing students to register as substitute teachers with Richardson ISD to help that district fill its sub shortage. At the same time that more teachers are quitting in Texas, the past several years have seen a decrease in the number of newly certified teachers, according to a UT Dallas news release.

The pandemic has brought certain issues surrounding education to the forefront, said Dr. Barbara Ashmore, an assistant director of student teaching and field experience for the TDC in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies. It’s important to properly prepare young teachers for the classroom and to understand the reasons behind the declining number of those wanting to become educators, she said.

“Neither me nor you or anyone else out there right now got to where they are without a K–12 teacher,” Ashmore said. “Our public education system is essential to our economy and our culture and the way we live and the opportunity that it gives people to carve out their path in life.”

Teaching is a difficult job and isn’t a career for everyone, but those who choose education need the public’s support, Ashmore said. Administrators themselves have similarly been under enormous pressure.

Recently, WFAA reported that 10 North Texas superintendents within the span of four months have announced that they will be leaving their positions.

Ashmore pointed to a strange disconnect: While most parents would agree that their child has a great teacher, some polls show that Americans are becoming increasingly frustrated with the public school system overall. In 2021, Gallup found that 54% of the public is dissatisfied with the quality of K–12 education in general.

Still, Ashmore is passionate about the profession.

“If you want to leave your mark on the world, if you want some tiny piece of immortality, you reach out and touch the future, and what better way than educating a child so they can grow up to be whatever they want to be?” she said. “We’re just a piece of the cog in the wheel, but we’re an important piece. The wheel is not going to work properly without educators in there."
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Simone Carter, a staff news reporter at the Dallas Observer, graduated from the University of North Texas' Mayborn School of Journalism. Her favorite color is red, but she digs Miles Davis' Kind of Blue.
Contact: Simone Carter