Poll: 1 in 5 Oklahoma Teachers Consider Leaving Their Profession | State News
OKLAHOMA CITY – Feeling overworked, underpaid and underrated, 1 in 5 Oklahoma public school teachers say they plan to quit the profession at the end of the school year.
Almost 15% of educators surveyed by the Oklahoma Education Association admitted they were already looking for a job and could leave sooner.
“We have gone from an emergency to a crisis,” said Katherine Bishop, chair of the group that represents tens of thousands of educators and support staff.
An aging workforce is contributing to the exodus, but so are the stressors of the pandemic, persistent shortages of substitutes, and expectations that teachers are taking on increased workloads while relinquishing the burden. promised time to plan and prepare for classes, Bishop said. Teachers should also continue to download virtual lessons while maintaining a traditional lesson schedule.
Bishop said salary is also proving to be a deciding factor. This hampers recruitment and retention as Oklahoma residents look to other industries that offer better pay, loan forgiveness, and more affordable insurance benefits.
“They have to be able to make a living,” Bishop said. “(The) teachers’ starting salary, $ 36,601, doesn’t go very far. We need to charge our teachers to be attractive, to help our students who are pursuing education studies to want to enter and stay in the classroom. “
Bishop said that several years ago, a state Department of Education task force interviewed about 30,000 educators with teaching certificates but not teaching. Those who left in the first five years said they did so because of their salary.
After five years, Bishop said educators reported leaving because of lack of respect or legislative autonomy or because they did not have the resources they needed.
State Representative John Waldron, D-Tulsa, said the state is struggling to get young Oklahomans to enter the profession. A recent survey of Oklahoma high school students in college found that only 2% were considering becoming a teacher. This is down from 4% a few years ago.
Waldron said legislative rhetoric has become increasingly negative towards teachers and lawmakers have taken local control away from districts. Some lawmakers, meanwhile, are demanding immediate results after increasing funding for public schools to record levels after years of cuts or no further investment, he said.
“It’s a tough time,” said Waldron. “The public school system has always been under great pressure. Then we have the pressure of a pandemic and the ongoing cultural war against public education and public educators. And we wonder why teachers leave the profession, and why young people do not choose the profession.
He said lawmakers need to look at compensation. He said Oklahoma lawmakers have raised teacher salaries in recent years after a decade of stagnant salaries, but neighboring states are also increasing their salaries. And with more jobs available, teachers can find better paying jobs in other industries.
Waldron, who spent 20 years as an educator in Tulsa public schools, said that by leaving the profession he was making between $ 47,000 and $ 48,000 a year with a master’s degree.
Joshua Frazier, 32, a second-grade Mustang teacher, has been teaching for five years. He said he suspected the teachers had started the year “still maybe a bit exhausted compared to last year”. He said last year had been very different with virtual education, distance learning and later children coming in and out because of their quarantine.
He said every school year brings challenges, but this year many of his students have never had a “regular, traditional school year” because of the pandemic.
Frazier said he teaches in a “very good school” in a good district, but educators working in other districts have not been so lucky.
Frazier said he had heard teachers across the state talk about under-staffed schools, unrealistic expectations from administrators and conflicts with parents.
Her district, like most, is struggling with a shortage of substitute teachers.
“I don’t know why people aren’t replacing themselves as much as they have in recent years,” Frazier said. “It’s hard to divide classes or cover different things, attracting people from other fields to help cover. Not having replacements like (we have) in the past is definitely a struggle. “
Frazier, who recently completed his master’s degree, said he was not married. He can get by on his salary, but said he doesn’t know how the teachers who support families could survive on it.
According to the state’s salary scale, a fifth-grade teacher earns at least $ 38,810 with a bachelor’s degree or $ 40,200 with a master’s degree.
State Representative Sherrie Conley, R-Newcastle, said the state is already spending more than 50% of its total budget on public schools, so she is not sure where they would get the money to raise again remuneration of teachers. Lawmakers last increased teachers’ salaries in 2018 by an average of $ 6,100. They had to pass a massive new tax package on oil and gas drillers, gasoline and cigarettes to generate the necessary $ 447 million.
“I wish I could pay teachers more, especially starting salaries,” she said. “But again, I’m going back to where would we take the money?” “
Conley, who spent 16 years teaching in the classroom, said many teachers went into education knowing exactly what the pay was. She was always okay as long as she had the support of her directors, she said.
She focused on recruiting and retaining new teachers. She said many Oklahoma educators now spend no more than five years teaching before leaving the profession.
Conley said she would like student teachers to spend a year in the classroom, rather than five months, so they are better prepared to manage a classroom and build relationships with students. She said that might involve compensating these students accordingly.
But she said that ultimately it was up to school district administrators to ask probing questions about why substitutes, bus drivers and teachers aren’t coming back, and why parents don’t want to pass. time in classrooms. Administrators should use this feedback to improve the culture and climate of school buildings.
“They don’t ask these questions,” she said. “They have traffic in their buildings and they don’t ask these questions.”
Janelle Stecklein covers the Oklahoma Statehouse for CNHI newspapers and websites. Contact her at [email protected]