Teaching in Texas has become one of the most burdensome jobs in America. Educators are increasingly being burned out by constant culture wars, the pandemic, and the threat of school shootings – all while their pay remains the same.
Due to the demeaning conditions teachers are dealing with, Texas is facing a teacher’s exodus crisis. In the past year, two-thirds of teachers wanted to leave their jobs, according to a Texas AFT Survey.
In just Austin, at least 1,027 teachers have left the Austin Independent School District.
According to Axios, the starting salary for an Austin ISD teacher is $51,150. For those who have taught for 15 years, pay is only $54,129.
“Fewer people are coming in because the pay isn’t competitive and the word’s out that you’re not respected in public education,” Ken Zarifis, president of teachers union Education Austin, tells Axios.
To help lift some of the pressure, Austin district officials have proposed new pay incentives for teachers, including up to $2,500 in retention bonuses, as well as a $1,000 boost to their base salary and a roughly 2% raise.
“Austin ISD is working hard to have a compensation package that is reflective of our hardworking staff while also managing budgetary constraints,” district officials said in a statement.
The real question is: will these monetary changes be enough to keep teachers in schools? Apart from the pay, many teachers feel overwhelmed with other pressing issues that don’t revolve around money, such as the workload, politically influenced culture wars, and safety issues at their campus.
So while raising the pay should be unquestionable, the real problem resides in changing a whole culture that looks down on teachers and their profession.
Many Americans don’t understand the full picture of what teachers do, and are quick to diminish their importance, Jane Rochmes, a sociologist who studies education at Christopher Newport University, told Axios.
Plus, teachers don’t feel they’re trusted on “how to teach, to develop rapport with their students, or to delve into complex issues over time,” Rochmes says. “That can be undermining and demoralizing.”
We must break the cycle, and that requires investing more in a high-quality education system that values our teachers.
The Austin district’s board of trustees will vote on the proposed annual budget at its June 23 meeting.