The U.S. has seen a nationwide K-12 teacher shortage caused by decreased morale and challenges with virtual instruction during the pandemic. Texas has not been an exception.
The Charles Butt Foundation surveyed 919 Texas public school teachers for a Texas Teacher Poll. The poll found 68% of those teachers seriously considered leaving their position in 2021.
Vanessa Trevino, clinical teacher field supervisor at Texas A&M-University San Antonio, acknowledged virtual learning during the pandemic has caused students to fall behind, making it harder for teachers to do their job.
“I think it’s hard to be a teacher right now,” Trevino said. “The students themselves, through no fault of their own, are a year to a year-and-a-half behind because of COVID.”
The survey found teachers face an abundance of challenges related to the pandemic. Teachers predominantly experienced challenges with virtual instruction, work-related stress and increased workload.
Students were not learning at the same pace remotely as they did in-person, Trevino said. She said some school districts told its teachers it was sufficient if students logged into their virtual meetings.
“I think kids in public schools and charter schools are all facing the same kind of challenges,” Trevino said.
Michelle Hickman, associate superintendent at Jubilee academies, said her charter school has also seen a teacher shortage and students falling behind academically.
“Our students right now are being taught by non-certified teachers or non-certified personnel in order to cover the shortages,” Hickman said. “It’s a terrible effect on the kids.”
Hickman said she knows teachers who opted to leave their jobs to be stay-at-home moms while COVID-19 persists, with the intent to return when the pandemic ends. Although, she said some people are also leaving the education field entirely.
Hickman, who received a superintendent certification at A&M-San Antonio, said her charter school does not have contracts with its teachers, which facilitates teacher departures.
“We have teachers who started the school year with us but had submitted (an) application during the summer (to other schools), and they ended up getting phone calls and ended up getting picked up by those other schools,” Hickman said.
Gov. Greg Abbott sent a letter to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on March 7 calling for the creation of a task force to evaluate the causes of the teacher shortage.
TEA launched the Teacher Vacancy Task Force, made up of public education leaders from around the state.
“This task force should investigate the challenges teacher vacancies are causing for school districts, explore best practices for addressing this shortage and research the possibility for flexibility of certification, placement and hiring,” Abbott wrote.
However, the Texas Teacher Poll reported 53% of teachers said they felt less valued by state elected officials.
Trevino said another reason teachers are leaving their jobs is because the pay is low for someone with a college degree.
“There is not anything done at the state level with regards to increasing teacher pay,” Hickman said.
Considering the workload, stress and pay, Trevino said being a teacher is not worth it for some.
“Some people are saying (being a teacher) is just not worth it,” Trevino said. “They get in there, stay for a year or two, and then they leave.”
A&M-San Antonio hosted an educators job fair April 1 with participants from different cities across the U.S. looking for teachers, Trevino said.
Trevino said clinical students have a lot of opportunities because of the teacher shortage. She said she believes all of her clinical students will be able to find a job.
“If they work in a school that has a good culture, then that takes care of a lot of the stress, (especially) if they have support that first year,” Trevino said.