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Survey: 50% of teachers say they’ve ‘seriously’ considered leaving profession

A recent survey of school teachers indicates that about half of them have “seriously considered” relinquishing their positions due to low pay and poor working conditions.

For the first time in 19 years, the PDK poll included public school teachers in its annual poll about attitudes towards education (why didn’t it include them sooner?). About 60 percent of educators say they are “unfairly paid,” and just five percent fewer say they would strike for better pay.

To little surprise, teachers making less than $45,000 per year (about a quarter of all educators) were more willing to go on strike (67 percent). One teacher told surveyors “I work 55 hours a week, have 12 years’ experience, and make $43k. I worry and stress daily about my classroom prep work and kids. I am a fool to do this job.”

Seventy-five percent of teachers say their schools are “underfunded” with 58 percent willing to go on strike for increased financial support. About three-quarters of the public back teacher strikes for better salaries and adequate school funding, according to the survey.

Unsurprisingly, teachers’ views on school discipline play a role in their opinions. Two-thirds of teachers and half of parents say discipline is “not strict enough” in schools. A vast majority favor “zero tolerance” policies for “certain violations of drug and weapons policies or assaults” with (surprisingly) more non-white parents supporting such, even in “accidental” cases (such as a student unknowingly carrying a folding pocket knife).

As reported by Education Week, one teacher told PDK researchers that “lack of respect […] administrative disrespect for teachers publicly and privately, [and] defiant and belligerent students returned to the classroom after egregious behavior” compound teacher frustrations.

Three-quarters of teachers and 69 percent of parents favor non-punitive mediation methods in cases of “lesser” student offenses. Political affiliation plays a large role here: More progressives than conservatives support mediation in such matters; nevertheless, over half of the latter back such policies.

A relevant question is, what constitutes an offense worthy of mediation vs. one requiring a detention or suspension? It is highly likely there’s a disconnect between teachers and administrators here as the former, in “the trenches,” must maintain classroom order above all else while the latter face pressure to make the numbers “look good” to district (and state) officials.

Unfortunately, mediation methods like “restorative practices” — where teachers need to be sensitive “toward the varieties of individual and cultural diversity” — take a “needs of the one over the needs of the many” approach. A recent report on an Illinois State University seminar on the topic exemplifies this, and the vacuity of its faculty testimonials just adds fuel to the fire (“The Restorative Practices tools I learned […] help me to increase feelings of equity in my classroom while promoting a secure and supportive environment for all students”).

Over half of teachers today say they would not recommend their children go into education. As a former teacher myself, I wouldn’t go that far; I’d endorse the move based on a few what-should-be-obvious caveats (which all prospective educators should consider before complaining, natch): Seek a good-paying district in a good-paying state (with a proportionate cost of living) which has a strong anti-BS administration.

Read the Education Week article and PDK report.

MORE: Study: Teachers still want suspensions used as discipline measure

MORE: Teachers union strikes are all about teachers — not students

IMAGE: Merrimack College / Flickr.com

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Dave has been writing about education, politics, and entertainment for over 20 years, including a stint at the popular media bias site Newsbusters. He is a retired educator with over 25 years of service and is a member of the National Association of Scholars. Dave holds undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Delaware.