Added responsibilities are driving teachers out of the profession

"Something isn't right, and the ramifications are clear," a new analysis reads. What factors should district leaders address to keep teachers in the profession?

Educators are leaving in droves because the profession isn’t what it used to be, a new analysis warns. Major culprits for the growing vacancies are the added responsibilities for student mental health and integrating edtech that teachers have taken on since the pandemic, says the report from ADP Research Institute, a labor market think tank.

The demand for teachers has grown but the supply of qualified educators has not, ADP’s Chief Economist Nela Richardson told USA Today. “As everybody is talking about the future of work, we’ve got to talk about the education of that future workforce—and it starts with teachers,” Richardson said.

Since 2021, K12 job openings have skyrocketed, but employment levels remain relatively stagnant. Retirements and resignations drove teacher employment rates down in the months after the COVID outbreak.

“Something isn’t right, and the ramifications are clear,” the analysis reads. “Stagnant wages and a stressful work environment are pushing classroom experts to the exits and discouraging young people from joining the profession.”

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The researchers note that this is a “classic imbalance” that should lead to higher prices—in this case, higher wages. Instead, teacher pay lags behind that of other workers.

As of October 2023, the average teacher salary was $68,000 a year, which is about 8% lower than the national average across all U.S. workers. Unfortunately, the gap seems to be widening considering the difference was only 3% in January of 2018.

“And this comparison between teachers and the broader U.S. workforce doesn’t consider differences such as education level, which is higher among teachers, making the shrinking pay premium even more unsettling,” the report notes.

As a result, flatlining teacher salaries only make it more difficult for districts to recruit qualified teachers post-pandemic. Instead, educators of all experience levels are turning to higher-paying industries. The bottom line? Wage bumps in the overall job market have eroded salary competitiveness in the teaching profession since COVID-19.

“Non-monetary amenities such as professional training, flexible work arrangements and job sharing could help employers stay competitive,” the researchers conclude.

Hopeful headlines

Despite the grim perspective, many states and school districts have made efforts this budgeting season to bolster the teaching profession by offering more meaningful wages. This week, senators in Missouri are voting to expand a state program that would pay for private school expenses and boost teacher salaries, the Columbia Missourian reports.

If the measure becomes law, the minimum teacher salary would rise from $25,000 to $40,000. A teacher with a master’s degree and more than a decade of experience is paid around $33,000 a year.  Under the new law, that would increase to $46,000, the news outlet adds.

In South Dakota, school districts may soon be raising their teacher salaries each year at a rate equal to the state’s increase in education funding, South Dakota Searchlight reports.

Last week, the state’s legislature approved Senate Bill 127, which aims to raise average teacher pay, including salary and benefits. Compensation would increase by 97% of the increase approved by the legislature and the governor each year beginning July 1.

“Right now we are 49th in the nation for average teacher salaries. This is unacceptable,” Sen, Sydney Davis, R-Burbank, declared on the Senate floor. “We need real accountability. It’s time to keep our promise to teachers.”

Micah Ward
Micah Ward
Micah Ward is a District Administration staff writer. He recently earned his master’s degree in Journalism at the University of Alabama. He spent his time during graduate school working on his master’s thesis. He’s also a self-taught guitarist who loves playing folk-style music.

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