Skimpy budgets, low pay and public disrespect is prompting educators to abandon the classroom in droves

Citing low pay, widespread disrespect and potential opportunities in other fields, frustrated public-school teachers walked away from their classrooms in record numbers during 2018, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report based on U.S. Department of Labor figures.

Public education employees, including person in jobs as varied as community-college faculty, school psychologists and janitors, quitting their jobs at the fastest rate since such figures were first compiled in 2001. In the first 10 months of 2018, public educators quit at an average rate of 83 per 10,000 a month, the newspaper said, citing the Labor Department. Although the overall rate for U.S. workers was much higher — 231 jobs quit per 10,000 workers in 2018 — the figure for teachers and other public education employees was a record high and the continuation of a disturbing trend.

For years, teachers have complained that they’re overworked and under appreciated as states have stripped away work protections, cut school budgets and blamed them for student underperformance.

What’s more, as the private-sector labor market rebounded from the recession, teachers and other school workers have yet to get back to where they were more than a decade ago. “Funding for public education in several states hasn’t yet recovered from cuts during the downturn,” the Journal reported.

Encouraged by a tight labor market and low unemployment, teachers told the newspaper they expect to find more lucrative and respected jobs outside the classroom, a mass decision that is remarkable in an industry that typically hasn’t experienced such turnover turmoil.

“The educators may be finding new jobs at other schools, or leaving education altogether,” the newspaper reported. “The departures come alongside protests this year in six states where teachers in some cases shut down schools over tight budgets, small raises and poor conditions.”
A May 2018 study by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities found that many states are providing much less school funding than they were a decade ago. That effectively shifts the burden of paying public education workers onto local governments and results in wide swings in educational equity and outcomes, according to the center’s analysis, which is based on data from the Census Bureau.

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