Seriously Considered

Once upon a time — August 2019, to be exact — an uproar swept through the education press because of the annual PDK poll. It showed, “Frustrated by poor pay and underfunded schools, half of public school teachers nationally have seriously considered leaving the profession in the past few years.”

The shocking result led to equally shocking headlines and ledes:

‘I Am a Fool to Do This Job’: Half of Teachers Say They’ve Considered Quitting

50% of teachers surveyed say they’ve considered quitting, blaming pay, stress and lack of respect

Many say they’re working longer hours for less pay than ever before. They juggle high-stress classrooms and constant pressure from administrators and state officials to improve students’ standardized test scores. On top of that, they don’t feel they have earned the respect of students and their parents.”

Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, weighed in:

“Despite some marginal improvements in public education funding, 10 years into the economic recovery, parents and educators agree public schools need far more investment to meet the needs of kids.”

This month, the National Institute on Retirement Security published the results of its own survey. It showed that public employees valued their pension and health care benefits even more highly than they do salaries. The National Education Association saw this as evidence that defined benefit pensions keep teachers in the profession.

The survey also revealed that “90% of teachers say they plan to stay with their current employer until they are eligible for retirement or can no longer work.”

Predictably, this tidbit has received no press coverage. Putting the two surveys together, we can safely conclude that while teachers seriously consider leaving the profession, they don’t, largely because the benefits are good.

That’s supported by a third definitive survey, the monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey produced by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It consistently shows that public education has some of the lowest quit rates in the entire U.S. economy.

I suppose there aren’t too many readers who will click on a story with the headline, “9 of 10 teachers say they’ll stay on job until retirement.” That kind of “teacher voice” runs counter to the prevailing narrative.