Citing burnout, teachers across U.S. plan to leave profession earlier than they hoped: survey

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – More than half of the members of the nation’s largest teachers union say they will leave the profession earlier than they originally planned — and burnout is the main reason.

That’s the result of a recently released poll from the National Education Association.

Out of the more than 3,600 educators who were polled, 90% said they are feeling burned out. It’s a nationwide issue that’s also happening in Northeast Florida schools.

Education leaders said teachers around the country are feeling overworked and underappreciated, especially since the start of the pandemic.

The National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union with almost 3 million educators, unveiled its latest survey, which showed that:

  • 90% of members said feeling burned out is a serious problem.
  • 80% said unfilled job openings have led to more work obligations.
  • 55% said they plan to leave education sooner than planned because of the pandemic, up from 37% in August of last year.

Terrie Brady, Duval County teachers union president, said it’s not a single issue that’s causing teachers to walk away.

“It’s multiple issues that’s triggering, I think, a lot of the resignations and early retirements,” Brady said. “It’s the pandemic, not feeling safe. Second of all, it turns around, and there’s so many absentees or vacant positions, our current teachers that are in the classroom or are voluntarily giving up their planning times to cover classes, or we don’t have enough subs.”

Brady said there are also cases of teachers being verbally abused out in the community.

Gov. Ron DeSantis has pushed to increase teacher pay in recent years and raised the starting salary to help recruit more teachers. But a statewide teachers union leader said increasing pay for new classroom teachers alone is not enough to fix the issue.

“We really need to see a lot more movement in giving districts and unions the ability to negotiate fair raises for everyone who works in our schools,” said Andrew Spar, Florida Education Association president. “Because here’s what we know, we have over 4,000 vacancies currently still existing in our schools in the state of Florida among our teachers, and we have nearly 5,000, or just over 5,000, vacancies among our support staff. And so we have to address this crisis.”

Duval County Public Schools in a statement to News4JAX said: “Recruiting and retaining highly effective teachers is an essential part of our plan to continue the district’s growth in student achievement. There is a tremendous amount of work happening in this area.”

DCPS said it is focusing on improving pay, investing in professional development, making sure teachers have quality mentors and letting teachers know they are appreciated. DCPS said it also hosts and attends in-person and virtual career fairs (colleges, non-profit, military) locally and nationally, while also hosting weekly Learn about Duval sessions online.

In St. Johns County, it is addressing the issue through aggressive recruiting. The St. Johns County School District is hosting a teacher recruitment fair at Nease High School on Feb. 26 to bring in new teachers.

The State Board of Education is set to consider a new report about teacher shortages on Wednesday and increasing public education funding continues to be a big topic in Tallahassee during this legislative session.

Here are the areas with the largest numbers of projected vacancies, according to the Florida Department of Education:

  • Elementary education: 2,195
  • Exceptional student education: 1,859
  • English: 615
  • Math: 537
  • Reading: 469
  • Pre-kindergarten/primary education: 400
  • English for speakers of other languages: 345
  • Speech-language pathologist: 338
  • Science-general: 337
  • Social sciences: 301

All teacher vacancies can be found on school district websites.

About the Author:

Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.