Survey: Covid Has Caused Over One-Quarter of K-12 Educators to Consider Leaving Jobs

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The poll included responses from teachers and other school staff. Some said they considered leaves of absence, others career changes or early retirement.

Just over a quarter of teachers and other K-12 education workers said they thought about leaving their jobs either permanently or temporarily because of concerns about the coronavirus, according to a recent survey.

Majorities of respondents also reported working more and enjoying their jobs less compared to a year ago. The poll was conducted during October and November by Horace Mann Educators Corp., a company that provides insurance and retirement services for education workers. Public school teachers, as well as administrators and support staff, were among the 1,240 respondents.

In total, about 27% said they were considering leaving their jobs due to the coronavirus outbreak. Ten percent said they were considering other employment. Another 6% were weighing early retirement and 11% were thinking about taking a leave of absence.

Over three quarters—77%—of those surveyed said their workload was greater than it was a year ago, while 60% said they were enjoying their job less than they were last year. 

About 59% of respondents’ schools were either conducting classes fully online, or using a “hybrid” model with both in-person and online learning. The other 41% of those surveyed worked for schools that were holding in-person classes.

“Many districts are seeing educators face the hard decision of choosing to risk their career, health, or financial position,” Horace Mann’s vice president, Tyson Sanders, said in a statement. “Providing more resources to help relieve educators of having to make these trade-offs is necessary to safeguard the futures of our students and teachers.”

Horace Mann’s report notes that, even prior to the pandemic, financial pressures were driving educators out of the profession, as salaries have fallen behind those earned by other college-educated workers and as student loan debt presents a burden.

Median pay for elementary school and high school teachers was around $60,000 per year in 2019, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But pay levels can vary widely between school districts and states. And the Horace Mann report points to prior research that found the average teacher’s starting salary in 63% of public school districts nationwide was under $40,000 for the 2017-2018 school year.

The new survey also found that 29% of educators were “not confident” that their employer’s benefits would cover unplanned time off arising from a health-related issue—a potentially troubling finding as the highly contagious virus continues to surge around the country.

“We are super-exposed to the virus,” said a second grade teacher who responded to the survey. “I see 50 students from different households every day. If I contract the virus and cannot work, I do not get paid.”

Federal statistics have shown thousands of education-related job losses in state and local government since the onset of the pandemic earlier this year. Determining if those losses are layoffs, furloughs or hiring freezes can be a challenge. There have been some signs that support staff like bus drivers and teachers aides have been most affected. 

The Horace Mann report can be found here.

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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