NEA Study: 55 Percent of Teachers Want to Leave Their Profession Early

NEA has found that massive staff shortages in public schools are leading to educator burnout, with more than half planning to stop teaching.

NEA Study: 55 Percent of Teachers Want to Leave Their Profession Early

Photo via Adobe, by Michail Petrov

Washington, D.C. – A survey released Tuesday by the National Education Association (NEA) has found that 55% of educators say they want to leave teaching earlier than they had originally planned. The reason? Burnout due to massive labor shortages at public schools.

Additionally, the percentage of teachers who want to leave the profession early is even higher among Black (62%) and Hispanic/Latino (59%) educators, who are already underrepresented in the teaching profession.

“After persevering through the hardest school years in memory, America’s educators are exhausted and increasingly burned out,” said NEA President Becky Pringle in a press release. “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).

NEA’s survey also found:

  • 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.
  • 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.

Ventilation remains a key area to address, with 95% of members supporting improved ventilation in schools. Despite this, only 38% reported having improved ventilation in their schools, and only 28% feel their school’s ventilation system provides them with enough protection. Additionally, in our nation’s schools serving majority Black, Brown, and economically disadvantaged students, only 21% of educators believed their schools had adequate ventilation.

The survey was conducted January 14-24 during the latest, massive surge in COVID cases among young adults and children. Despite this, more than a third of educators say mask and mitigation policies have been eased since the beginning of the school year.

About the Author

Robin Hattersley Gray
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Robin has been covering the security and campus law enforcement industries since 1998 and is a specialist in school, university and hospital security, public safety and emergency management, as well as emerging technologies and systems integration. She joined CS in 2005 and has authored award-winning editorial on campus law enforcement and security funding, officer recruitment and retention, access control, IP video, network integration, event management, crime trends, the Clery Act, Title IX compliance, sexual assault, dating abuse, emergency communications, incident management software and more. Robin has been featured on national and local media outlets and was formerly associate editor for the trade publication Security Sales & Integration. She obtained her undergraduate degree in history from California State University, Long Beach.

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