Saturday, July 30, 2022

Why Teachers Are Quitting the Teaching Profession (It's Not the Money)

Why are teachers quitting the teaching profession?

Is it the money? NOPE!

I can tell you first-hand, that all the money in the world would not entice me back into the classroom. A six-figure salary is not enough for me, even with all the benefits. 60 Minutes did a report on an innovative charter school in New York City, where the teachers received considerably generous salaries (yes, six figures), but the workload was beyond intense. They were expected to be on call for the students, the school, the parents, the support staff all throughout the week. It was almost as though the teachers did not have a life of their own.

That was the feedback from some of the teachers, at least.

Don't take my word for it. You can hear it from them:       


Recent studies have been released trying to figure out what teachers are quitting, and this report sheds some serious light on the issue:

REPORT: 615Midwestern Teachers Reveal Why They’re Really Leaving the Classroom

Data Contradicts Unions' Reasons for Shortage

Countless education advocates have spent the last few months warning of the approaching teacher shortage—myself included. Voices from the left have warned of every reason from low teacher pay to COVID-19 policy to parents at school board meetings, while closer colleagues of mine in the center and on the right have suggested a behavioral crisis.

 There will be a teacher shortage, certainly. But there will be a student shortage that will rival the teacher shortage, too. Parents don't want their kids to suffer in the crappy, decayed government school programs.

I set out to confirm a regional understanding of why so many teachers have announced their departure from Midwestern classrooms this year—either abandoning the field altogether or switching school districts.

Only K-12 teachers were invited to complete this seven question survey (three introductory questions with four content/core questions). Limiting factors via survey distribution and internal mechanisms functioned as an endeavor to keep the data safer from the taint of political advocacy—though I will admit there is no way to keep something like this sterile. Most likely, a different set of 615 qualified responders would yield a different result, therefore I only pose that this is the best data I could collect independently, at the current time.

 That's a pretty good cohort, though, so there's not too much to worry about.

Of the 682 total responses, only 615 qualified to participate in the survey. 67 of the responses answered question two, “What is the staff email assigned to you by the district you currently/previously worked in?” with an email address not verifiable as a school email.

Additionally, teachers were asked if they were leaving their position as a K-12 teacher and what Midwestern state (Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio) they worked in. While the definition of what Midwestern means culturally is up for debate, this was a cultural region I had experience with—far more than either U.S. coastal corridor, for example.

Once past the initial three framing and introductory questions, four questions were presented to responders:

1. Given the reasons below, what is the largest reason you’re leaving your position?

Salary is insufficient

Student behavior is poor and left unchecked.

Progressive political activity (Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Critical Race Theory, Gender Identity, etc.) required by administration.

Parental concerns with your classroom (Demands from parents about curriculum, instruction, etc.)

COVID-19 Policies

Safety concerns about school shootings

Lack of materials to teach effectively (self-financed classrooms, etc.)

Standardized Testing

Licensure Expiration or Professional Development requirements


2. If salary were considered an ancillary reason, i.e. “I’m not being paid enough to deal with _______”, what would you suggest is the largest reason you’re leaving your classroom?

Student behavior is poor and left unchecked.

Progressive political activity (Diversity/Equity/Inclusion, Critical Race Theory, Gender Identity, etc.) required by administration.

Parental concerns with your classroom (Demands from parents about curriculum, instruction, etc.)

COVID-19 Policies

Safety concerns about school shootings

Lack of materials to teach effectively (self-financed classrooms, etc.)

Standardized Testing

Licensure Expiration or Professional Development requirements


3. If the present administration could provide evidence that this specific problem is being dealt with satisfactorily, would you return to this classroom?

Yes, this year

Yes, after a year or more of proof


Not sure

Were you a member of a local or national teachers union at some point during the previous academic year?



Of the responders with salary as an included primary reason, 319 of the 615 responders listed student behavior as their biggest reason to leave the classroom, followed by 138 for “progressive political activity” and 134 for “salary is insufficient”.

When pay is listed as an ancillary reason in contribution to another factor, the numbers shift dramatically. 447 of 615 responders listed unchecked student behavior as their primary reason for leaving the classroom. 128 listed “progressive political activity”, while only nine listed parental harassment.

Students are getting away with all kinds of abusive behavior in the classroom. It's really bad.

In California, teachers are no longer allowed to remove students from a classroom for defiance. Can anyone imagine trying govern a classroom, when students know that there will be no repercussions for their misconduct? In Torrance Unified, where I live, one student told me that he had teachers who would "rage quit" frequently because of student outrages and abuses. He didn't fill in the blank on one issue, which was that mostly like the teacher did not have the authority to remove a student who was disruptive or disrespectful.

There is no way for a teacher to teach a classroom if the student does not respect the teacher. It's not going to work. In many cases, most teachers just give up on trying to teach real content, and instead the focus on pushing political activism. It makes them feel good, and it gives the students an outlet to act up. 

Given this, it’s beyond incredible that Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers and Becky Pringle of the National Education Association would cite Republicans’ and parents’ “politicization” of the classroom as the reason for the teacher shortage. It’s not even a secondary or tertiary issue—it’s forty-nine times less important to teachers than the behavioral crisis.

The "behavioral crisis" is precisely the way to put it. Parents are not disciplining their own children, and trial lawyers go to great lengths to intimidate school boards and administrators about discipline in the classroom. Add to this mess the proliferation of Critical Racist Theory, in which black and Hispanic students are taught to see themselves as perennial victims at the hand of white opppressors, and these kids can milk the system, act up any way they please, then shout "Racism!" if anyone tries to hold them accountable.

Furthermore, 356 of the 615 teachers reported that they were a member of a teachers union this previous year. It’s not just non-union teachers that are reporting these issues.

In other words, the teachers unions are not doing their jobs to protect the teachers! Wow, I am shocked-shocked!

I was surprised to see that only 21% of responders answered “yes” to returning to the classroom of the district if their complaints were reported to have been dealt with.

The numbers are that low, because there is no real hope that school districts wil implement effective policies to back up the teachers. They have seen "The Blob" that dominates school districts, in which the inertia of warring interest groups frustrates any meaningful reform.

In this first survey, I conclude that it’s reasonable (at the very least) to cast extreme doubt on union and education advocacy organizations claiming that pay and parental harassment are the primary issues for teachers leaving.

When salary is listed as a contributing factor, 93.35% of Midwestern teachers claim that their resignation is due to student behavior and progressive political activity required in their classrooms.

It's not about the money. It's just not. Time for politicians to stop lying to the public and stop demanding more money.

Personally, I had assumed that teacher licensure and professional developments would be a greater share of the responses.

One of the teachers who responded they were resigning due to fear of school shootings submitted their response May 25—the day after the Uvalde, Texas shooting.

One self-criticism of note is that I didn’t separate “Conservative/Republican education legislation” from “parental concerns.” Though the GOP legislative action was a direct derivative of parental distress beginning during the COVID-19 lockdowns, I should have split those. Also, I should have provided a text submission option for “If you selected ‘other’, why?” I’m rather curious as to what those responses represented.

I also should have added resignation options like, “I’ve reached retirement-age” and “inter-personal staff disagreements.” There are several others which come to mind; the options listed were found in a major publication (NPR, NEA, AFT, Chalkbeat, EdWeek, etc.) as a primary reason over the last 12 months.

True, there are other reasons why people call it quits, but the fact that teachers positively answered that student misconduct topped their reason for leaving, well that says it all.

Final Reflection

Teachers take a lot of crap, and the lack of power granted to teachers in the classroom is driving many of them out of the professional entirely. It's not enough to pay a teacher a good salary. They have to command the respect of the students, the parents, and the administrators. By and large, teachers are not getting the respect they need, let alone the respect they deserve, to run their classrooms. The fact that teachers unions are lying about the reasons for the teacher shortage proves the lack of respect they are getting from the very people who are supposed to be representing their interests in the first place!

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