WASHINGTON—The National Education Association, the nation’s largest union representing nearly 3 million educators, unveiled its latest survey of members' opinions on key issues facing public education during the pandemic. Conducted by GBAO Strategies, the survey shows that the massive staff shortages in America’s public schools are leaving educators increasingly burned out, with an alarming 55% of educators now indicating that they are ready to leave the profession they love earlier than planned.
“Throughout this pandemic, America’s educators have shown us how committed they are to helping their students thrive. In every community across America, our educators are partnering with parents and families to ensure all students have the freedom to achieve their dreams,” said National Education Association President Becky Pringle. “But, as our new survey shows, after persevering through the hardest school years in memory, America’s educators are exhausted and increasingly burned out. School staffing shortages are not new, but what we are seeing now, is an unprecedented staffing crisis across every job category. This crisis is preventing educators from giving their students the one-on-one attention they need. It is forcing them to give up their class planning and lunch time to fill in for colleagues who are out due to COVID. And, it is preventing students from getting the mental health supports needed."
While educator shortages predate the pandemic, particularly for substitute teachers and in hard-to-staff subjects such as math, science, special education, and bilingual education, these shortages have grown in the past two years and expanded to encompass other positions such as bus drivers, school nurses, and food service workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are currently 567,000 fewer educators in America’s public schools today than there were before the pandemic. Nationally, the ratio of hires to job openings in the education sector has reached new lows as the 2021-22 school year started and currently stands at 0.57 hires for every open position, according to BLS’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS). Recently, NEA highlighted some solutions that could help address the staff shortage crisis, aimed at ensuring that every student has caring, qualified & committed educators.
“This is a five-alarm crisis. We are facing an exodus as more than half of our nation’s teachers and other school staff are now indicating they will be leaving education sooner than planned. If we’re serious about getting every child the support they need to thrive, our elected leaders across the nation need to address this crisis now,” Pringle added. “For all they do for our communities, educators need and deserve our collective respect. Aretha taught us how to spell it, now we need to show it to our teachers and education support professionals across the nation. That means paying educators like the professionals they are, ensuring that their students can get the mental health support they need, protecting them from COVID, and addressing the staff shortages so our educators can do what they do best – helping every student thrive.”
Specifically, the survey, conducted January 14-24, 2022, showed:
OUR SCHOOLS ARE SHORT-STAFFED:
- Three-fourths (74%) of members said they've had to fill in for colleagues or take other duties due to staff shortages.
- 80% of members report that unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations for the educators who remain.
EDUCATORS ARE BURNED OUT:
- 90% of members say feeling burned out is a serious problem (67% very serious).
- To address educator burnout, raising educator salaries receives the strongest support (96% support, 81% strongly support), followed by providing additional mental health support for students (94% support), hiring more teachers (93%), hiring more support staff (92%), and less paperwork (90%).
- 91% say that pandemic-related stress is a serious problem for educators.
UNLESS ELECTED OFFICIALS ACT, SCHOOLS FACE AN EXODUS:
- More than half (55%) of members plan to leave education sooner than planned because of the pandemic, a significant increase from 37% in August.
- This is even higher among Black (62%) and Hispanic/Latino (59%) educators, who are already underrepresented in the teaching profession.
- This is true for educators regardless of age or years teaching. 56% of educators under 50 years old and 54% of educators 50 and older say this. And 50% of educators with 10 or fewer years in the profession, 58% of educators with 11-20 years, and 57% of educators with 21 years or more say they are likely to leave before they have planned.
- 86% of members say they have seen more educators leaving the profession or retiring early since the start of the pandemic.
IMPACT OF COVID ON SCHOOLS:
- Even at the height of Omicron, nearly all members’ schools (94%) report that their schools have been fully open for in-person learning and members report as many as ¼ of their school’s staff or students were out due to COVID.
- Of the small number of educators who reported not being in-person, most attribute closings to a combination of 1) teacher and substitute shortages due to COVID-19 exposure (62%), 2) too many students are out of school due to COVID-19 exposure (42%), and 3) support staff shortages due to COVID-19 exposure (28%).
- Ventilation remains a key area to address. 95% of members support improved ventilation in schools.
- Only 38% reported having improved ventilation in their schools and only 28% feel their school's ventilation system provides them with enough protection.
- But not all schools are maintained equally – in our nation’s schools serving majority Black, Brown, and economically disadvantaged students, only 21% of educators believed their schools had adequate ventilation.
- More than a third--35%-- of educators say mask and mitigation policies have been eased since the beginning of the school year amidst a surge in cases among young adults and children.
The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional employee organization, representing more than 3 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators, students preparing to become teachers, healthcare workers, and public employees. Learn more at www.nea.org.