For Immediate Release: February 7, 2022
Contact: Rob D’Amico, 512-627-1343, firstname.lastname@example.org
Low wages, workload stress, health and safety concerns rank high
A whopping 66% of educators throughout Texas said they have recently considered leaving their jobs, according to a Texas AFT survey released today.
Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said that teachers’ extraordinary discontent has been festering for a long time but has increased over the past couple of years over concerns about COVID-19 safety and health. The survey of 3,800 Texas AFT members was conducted in November.
“The fact that two-thirds of educators are thinking about quitting is really frightening. In addition to long-neglected low wages and the stress of increasing workloads, the Omicron surge has created unbelievable chaos,” Capo said. “Educators witness every day the devastating effects on our students when schools have staffing shortages. It’s only going to get worse unless teachers’ concerns are addressed.”
Teachers reconsidering their choice of profession blamed low pay and stagnant paychecks, increasing workload, and concerns for their safety.
When asked what would make teachers stay in public education, our members surveyed said the top changes would be:
- 45% said they want pay Incentives (retention bonus, pay raise)
- 35% said they want changes to workload (fewer responsibilities)
- 8% said they want workplace safety improvements
“Teachers need a livable salary that allows them to live in the same district they work in,” Capo said. They need a saner workload that doesn’t make them sacrifice every evening and weekend with their families. And they strongly believe that we need fully funded schools, so they don’t have to spend $400 out of their pocket each year to stock their classrooms. And they want a safe working environment.”
Another Texas AFT survey of educators in January showed that only 12% of the 2,500 respondents felt safe being on campus in the Omicron surge.
Luis Garza, a high school English teacher in McAllen ISD, said safety protocols need to be stricter. “Teachers, staff, and students are not required to wear masks on campus, which is driving numbers up. I’ve personally had a large number of students out this semester. That leaves the question of my personal safety and of my students always at the forefront of my thinking. It adds to the stress of a far bigger workload this semester. It’s no wonder I hear from colleagues wondering if it’s time to call it quits,” Garza said.
Shana Pawlowski, a fifth-grade math teacher in New Caney ISD, also bemoans loosened safety protocols. “Before, when everybody wore masks in the building and maintained all kinds of social distancing, it went as well as it could have. Since the start of the school year, it’s an almost complete abandonment of the safety issues and those things that were put in place to make teachers and students feel safe.”
Capo said in addition to the problem of relaxing safety protocols, members surveyed in January also noted the side effects of the surge. Teachers are paying out of their own pocket for N95 masks. Bus drivers cover two or three routes each day. Nurses are left alone with no one available to help, spending 95% of their time testing students and staff for COVID or trying to do what contact tracing they can. School employees asked to do the impossible with next-to-no-resources—not even guaranteed paid COVID leave if they themselves get sick.
Capo added: “They’re asking to be provided with N95 masks and rapid tests, to be able to take leave when they’re sick. This is basic stuff.”
Adding even more stress to educators is the feeling that state leadership and some politicians don’t respect public school educators and instead scapegoat them for the challenges in schools, casting doubts about their dedication and work ethic, and vilifying them as supposed indoctrinators.
Garza: “We have leadership basically attacking teachers. They’re not treating us like professionals.”
Pawlowski: “What’s happening now is a negative portrayal of teachers who are worried or scared. Now it’s gotten to where teachers are worried about speaking out about not feeling safe.”
An AFT nationwide survey, however, showed that parents strongly support their schools and teachers more than ever before. The survey of 1,308 parents in December revealed that:
- 72% say their children’s public school provides them with an excellent or good quality education.
- 78% think the quality and performance of their children’s teachers are excellent or good, up 7 points from 2013 (with only 5% saying poor).
- 79% are satisfied with their children’s public schools when it comes to helping their children reach their full potential
“Our message to leaders and politicians is: Listen to teachers, to school staff, to students, and to parents. We want to work together in developing solutions to the real issues in our school like safety, supporting students through a crisis, and retaining dedicated, qualified school staff members.”
Texas American Federation of Teachers represents some 65,000 teachers, paraprofessionals, support personnel, and higher-education employees across the state. Texas AFT is affiliated with the 1.7-million-member American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.