Nicolette Balough hoped to spend the rest of her career as a public school educator but two years into the pandemic she has had second thoughts.
“I’ve built a career that I expected and hoped to carry on through retirement,” she said. “I’ve come to realize that it is unsustainable salary-wise, health and safety-wise especially in the past two years. But I’m quitting because of the health and safety concerns.”
Balough, a pre-K teacher for HISD, is just one of many Texas educators who opted to leaving the profession as the pandemic lingers on.
The Texas Chapter of the American Federation of Teachers recently released a survey showing that 66% of the state’s educators said they have recently considered leaving their jobs. The survey, conducted in November, asked educators what would make them stay in public education. The responses were:
- 45% said they want pay incentives (retention bonus, pay raise).
- 35% said they want changes to workload (fewer responsibilities).
- 8% said they want workplace safety improvements.
“The fact that two-thirds of educators are thinking about quitting is really frightening. In addition to long-neglected low wages and the stress of increasing workloads, the omicron surge has created unbelievable chaos,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said during a press conference.
“Educators witness every day the devastating effects on our students when schools have staffing shortages. It’s only going to get worse unless teachers’ concerns are addressed.”
Capo shared a video testimonial of four teachers, Balogh being one of them, expressing their concerns about how the pandemic has and will impact the future of the public education system. She once started off with 26 students and had no physical way to social distance in the classroom and how such circumstances have left teachers in survival mode, burned out and unable to emotionally attend to the needs of their students.
George Cuba, a math teacher assistant at Irving ISD, said, “I’ve heard more in the last year; people just having breakdowns or heightened anxiety. In the beginning of the school year, I had a seizer the neurologist says as most likely due to stress…it demoralizes you.”
Capo said that Texas AFT will conduct community listening sessions this spring and summer across the state to develop solutions to the issue.
“Our message to leaders and politicians is: Listen to teachers, to school staff, to students, and to parents. We want to work together in developing solutions to the real issues in our school like safety, supporting students through a crisis, and retaining dedicated, qualified school staff members.”