Teachers' union says burned-out members are weighing new careers

Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias, speaking at the state Legislative Office Building in Hartford, 11/22/22
Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias, speaking at the state Legislative Office Building in Hartford, 11/22/22 Photo credit Dave Mager/WTIC News

Citing a long list of stress-inducing challenges at work, more members of the state's largest teachers' union say they might do something else with their careers.

The Connecticut Education Association (CEA) survey shows 74% of respondents are "more likely to leave the profession or retire early" than they were a few years ago.* That's up from 37% in a similar survey taken last fall.

Union officials and members appeared with state lawmakers from both parties Tuesday at the Legislative Office Building in Hartford, calling on state government to do more to help school systems recruit and retain teachers and ease teacher burnout.

"If we don't act today, this is going to continuously get worse," says CEA President Kate Dias.

Those surveyed have a long list of grievances, including persistent staff shortages that lead to oversized classes and overwhelmed teachers.

"This is an emergency situation," says Kevin Brown, a high school civics teacher and a Democrat who will soon be representing Vernon in the state House. "I go in and face class sizes that are bigger than they should be. We face resources that are not as much as they should be."

Dias says Connecticut can make teaching more attractive-- if lawmakers and state education officials simply listen to teachers: "If you know a teacher, you know somebody who has solutions to the educator shortage problem. If you know a teacher, you know somebody who has immediate ideas to lessen the workload, to reduce stress, to reduce burnout."

82% of those surveyed say teacher salaries should be higher. Rep. Kathleen McCarty (R-Waterford), a member of the Education Committee, says the state should look into what it can do to help: "There's a tremendous disparity, as teachers in the urban centers are not being paid commensurate with some of the wealthier."

A graphic from the state's largest teachers' union shows results from a recent member survey.
A graphic from the state's largest teachers' union shows results from a recent member survey. Photo credit Connecticut Education Association

Dias says that beyond potential legislation, the State Department of Education (CSDE) could help by relaxing various mandates.

In a statement, CSDE responds, "We are acutely aware of the challenges our districts face in both hiring and retaining a high quality and diverse educator workforce. We look forward to working with each member of the legislature, CEA, and AFT to provide additional supports and solutions through legislation and policy changes to further supplement the work already being done."

*The CEA says, "the survey of 5,656 K-12 educators was conducted October 18-25, 2022. It has a margin of error of +/- 1.19% and a 95% confidence level."

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