This fall, nearly 4,000 of our members took time out of their swamped schedules to complete our 2021 membership survey. We want you to know how much we appreciate the effort, and we want to share some of what we learned.
The last time we surveyed all our members was in 2019, when we were shaping our previous strategic plan. The feedback was helpful, but since that time, much has happened:
- an ongoing pandemic
- a state legislative session (with three special sessions)
- a general election
- hundreds of hours of cable news segments pushing extremist agendas on workplace safety, masking, vaccines, and classroom censorship
To say that the landscape of public education has changed is an understatement. That’s why our union prioritized hearing directly from members on what they considered the most pressing issues in their lives.
Your Top Priorities
Our survey found that, by wide margins, employee salaries and public school funding are our members’ top concerns. Keeping with the theme of dollars and cents, college affordability was high on the list, too.
The other central pain point? Employee workload. This shouldn’t be a surprise in a year of widespread staffing vacancies and the added burden of mandatory HB 3 reading academies for many classroom teachers.
As anyone working in our schools knows, the public education system faces a staff retention crisis. And our survey tells the same story: 66% of surveyed members have considered leaving public education over the past year.
Many of the members surveyed (67%) said their district has provided a retention bonus, or some pay bump, in the past year for employees, but 36% said they have received nothing. Regardless, salary is a major pain point for nearly all respondents. After the tumultuous and traumatic two years they’ve experienced, members are telling us that small, one-time bonuses feel like crumbs.
The Work to Come
When we asked why you remain AFT members, you answered in heartening ways. Nearly two-thirds of surveyed members say they’re AFT members because they value their union’s representation in workplace matters. This is a huge part of what we do, and we’re glad members of both local unions and the Associate Membership Program can get advice and legal representation when they need it.
Another one-third of respondents say they value our membership benefits. We’re proud of the wide range of benefits we provide school employees — especially those concerned with college affordability.
But what cheers us most are these two stats:
- Nearly 50% of surveyed members say they value our union’s legislative advocacy.
- Nearly 50% said they’re still members out of a desire to better their workplace and flex power to improve pay or social justice issues.
We thank every member who took the time to complete the survey. We hear you, and we have developed a series of plans for 2022 and beyond based on what you’ve told us concerns you most. As public servants, you deserve respect, and our work is to make elected officials, candidates for elected office, local leaders, and broader communities pay attention.