Missouri and Kansas teachers walk out over lack of pay and respect. It is a nationwide problem

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increase in the number of teachers leaving the profession. Even after nationwide classroom restrictions are lifted, the problem is likely to disappear.

In a January 2022 GAO survey, 25 percent of teachers said they were considering quitting.

According to reporting Released by the GAO Tuesday morning, COVID is not the main reason why the nation has few new teachers entering the workforce and more experienced educators leaving.

The report shows that growing negative perceptions of the profession and low teacher pay are the two biggest factors contributing to more teachers leaving.

“Despite the initial public display of gratitude to the teachers [during the pandemic]Later, we saw a widespread lack of support,” GAO Education Director Jacqueline Nowicki said in a podcast about the report. “Teachers told us they felt their concerns for their wellbeing were ignored both before and during the pandemic.”

Educators in both Kansas and Missouri share the same concerns. At the start of the 2022-2023 school year, Kansas had more than 1,400 open teaching positions and one of Missouri’s four school districts moved to a 4-day school week due to shortage.

Both states are trying to increase teacher pay in an effort to encourage teachers to stay in their schools.

Some schools in Kansas have started offers several financial incentivessuch as sign-on bonuses and continued retirement benefits after retirement, in an effort to attract new and retired teachers to teach within the district.

In Missouri, a state commission recommends teacher salaries increase by $13,000 to increase competitiveness in recruiting new teachers to a state that currently offers the second-lowest starting salary for teachers in the nation.

“How can you have a parent-teacher conference in line at the grocery store where someone has a second job?” said Kansas National Education Association Communications Director Marcus Baltzell. “He must have one because. [their salaries] cannot keep up with rising costs.”

While low pay has long been the biggest reason for the growing shortage, the issue has been overshadowed in recent years by growing negative views of teachers in the media and politics, according to the report.

“They see so much negativity coming out of the media about education, and it drives people away,” Nowicki said. “We’ve also heard that many of these issues are even worse for teachers of color.”

According to the report, the current teaching workforce in the US is overwhelmingly white and female, which has led to difficulties for students and teachers of color.

Teachers in Kansas and Missouri said they often feel it they are caught in a culture war maintained by local and state legislatures. Legislators in both states have proposed legislation commonly known as the “bill of rights of parents,” which would allow for greater oversight of teachers in their classrooms.

“Unfortunately, what we have in Kansas is a lot of misinformation that is attacking. [teaching] profession, attacking public schools,” Baltzell said. “Why would we expect every educator to feel supported?”

The GAO made two recommendations to the US Department of Education in its report. One is aimed at addressing teacher pay and the other is asking the Education Minister to build on the department’s efforts to raise public awareness of the value of teachers.

Copyright 2022 KCUR 89.3. To see more, visit KCUR 89.3.


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