Too many teachers leave the profession and too few replacements come.
Our education system will collapse soon. Here are the reasons why.
First, unprecedented numbers of teachers are leaving the profession and few students are preparing to become teachers. In 2021 alone, 600,000 teachers resigned from private education and 900,000 from public education.
According to the Center for American Progress, since 2010 the total number of students in teacher training programs across the country has decreased by 33%, while the number of students enrolled in other bachelor’s programs has increased.
Most parents surveyed by PDK International in 2018 indicated that they do not want their children to become teachers. Current and former teachers also do not want their children to become teachers; while in the 1970s and 1980s children of teachers were more than twice as likely as other children to become teachers themselves.
Second, teachers receive low salaries for their education and experience, have difficult working conditions, take a significant amount of work at home, are forced to spend their own money on books and materials and have little respect for legislators, parents and other professions.
Nationwide, the average teacher’s salary is $ 63,645; in Utah, $ 57,487 with a typical range between $ 50,183 and $ 66,379. Strategies for nonprofit educational resources report that average teacher salaries have remained unchanged since the 1990s after inflation control; and in most states, K-12 teachers’ salaries fall below the subsistence level – teachers who teach our youngest students earn well below that level.
The Institute for Economic Policy reports that teachers earn 19% less than the same qualified and educated professionals. The EPI compared the salaries of teachers and other professionals on a weekly basis and thus took into account summer weeks for which teachers are not paid.
EPI has found that teachers spend their summers training and preparing for the next school year, while staff in other fields are trained and paid for the time of the campaign. The EPI also found that teachers are not compensated for the work they do in the evenings and on weekends, or for many responsibilities that are not part of their teaching assignments.
Third, the teaching profession has traditionally been occupied by generations of women who were willing to do a huge amount of work for low pay – and it’s leaving. For example, many women from the silent generation, baby boomers, and generation X considered themselves “second-income,” as did lawmakers who allocate funds for education. In the 1970s, 33% of women enrolled in college pursued an educational major. In recent years, this percentage has fallen to 11% and continues to fall. Women, who currently make up 90% of primary school teachers and 60% of secondary school teachers, do not have women or men rising in their place.
Women from generations Y and Z insist that the salary be commensurate with their experience and education. They want a balance between work and life to never be found in education. And they want respect. They will not become teachers, and if they do, they will not remain. And who can blame women (and others) of generations Y and Z for wanting something bigger.
What will happen to our education system, which is already filled with spare teachers and insufficiently qualified staff, given the huge exit from the profession, several teachers preparing for this profession, and future generations of women who properly refuse to subsidize an unsustainable and poorly funded system?
To ensure that we continue to have teachers, the Utah legislature will need to allocate funds to pay teachers 20% more than current salaries, with a reasonable increase each year, as well as funds to improve working conditions. New teachers will expect a reasonable workload – so more, not less, teachers will need to reduce the number of classes and improve conditions in schools.
Behaviors, social workers, nurses, training coaches, counselors, and other support staff will need to double and triple the number to meet students ’needs and reduce the demand for teachers in the workplace to be all for all in their schools.
The time of reckoning is near. Leaders must either make an unprecedented investment in our education system now, or watch as the current system sinks into the abyss of history.
Cynthia Kimball Phillips is a middle teacher of the arts of English, history, Latin and ancient Greek at the Weilenmann School of Discovery in Park City.