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Persistent Problems and a Path Forward


Persistent Problems and a Path Forward

Feeling undervalued, underpaid, and overworked, vast numbers of Texas teachers are seriously considering leaving the profession. Yet a new statewide survey by the Charles Butt Foundation identifies promising retention strategies related to improved support and working conditions.

The survey of a random sample of Texas public school teachers finds that 77 percent have seriously considered leaving the profession, up 19 percentage points in two years. Moreover, 72 percent have taken concrete steps to do so, from preparing resumes and conducting job searches to interviewing for another position. Even excluding those nearing retirement age, six in 10 expect to move on within five years.

Pay is a major factor: Eighty-one percent of Texas teachers say their pay is unfair, up 12 points in a year. Forty-one percent report working an additional job out of financial need, in most cases during the school year.

In addition to pay concerns, nearly all Texas teachers – 98 percent – spent their own money on classroom supplies; among them, the median amount was $500. Seventy-five percent spent their money on supporting their students’ needs, with a median of $200.

Morale has suffered sharply. The share of teachers who feel valued by Texans overall has fallen from 44 percent two years ago to 17 percent now – the single largest change in three years of Texas teacher surveys by the Charles Butt Foundation. Fewer feel valued by administrators, parents or their communities. A mere 5 percent feel valued by elected officials in the state, down from 20 percent two years ago.

In their own words, teachers describe many reasons for seriously considering leaving the field, including lack of respect and support, excessive workload, too little pay, and the impact of pandemic disruptions on student learning and well-being.

Additionally, teachers perceive a wide range of obstacles to their effectiveness. Eighty-six percent regard their non-instructional tasks and responsibilities as barriers to their being as good a teacher as they can be. Eighty-two percent say the same about lack of planning time and 81 percent about pressure to do well on standardized tests.

This survey identifies several actionable retention strategies. A broad 80 percent of teachers say input into school and district decision-making would be highly important in encouraging them to continue working as a public school teacher; only 16 percent feel they have this in their current position. A significant pay increase and improved work culture and environment also would be highly impactful.

In a positive thread throughout the survey, teacher solidarity has remained strong. A steady 82 percent feel valued by other teachers at their school, and 91 percent trust themselves and their fellow colleagues to make decisions that are in the best interests of public school students.

What Texans believe matters greatly to us. While some of our efforts are regional, much of our impact spans the huge and diverse state, and we value voices and experiences from every community.