She says it’s less the 20-year veterans like herself and more the young teachers that are leaving, or considering leaving.
“This is just not what they bargained for,” McCoy says. “I also mentor new teachers in my county and one of the girls that had done some clinical work in my classroom, she called me and she just said, ‘Is it normal for me to cry every single day after school?’ And I said, ‘Honey, it’s not normal. But this year it’s not uncommon.’ “
Of course, saying that you’re thinking about leaving, or reporting the perception that others are leaving, is not the same as actually putting in your notice. Still, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says there are 567,000 fewer educators in America’s public schools today than there were before the pandemic. And the NEA’s analysis of BLS data indicates that 43% of jobs posted are going unfilled.
When it comes to solutions, the NEA says money is uppermost in its members’ minds. They support raising salaries and hiring more people. Pringle says the union has been amplifying the Biden administration’s message that American Rescue Plan money — $122 billion in federal aid to K-12 schools — can and should be used to improve pay and create new positions.
“We were asked to assist [U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona] to really push on this part of the use of those funds,” Pringle says, “because some school districts were a little leery about using them to hire staff.”
One big reason for that, she explained, is that the extra money is set to sunset within three years, whereas hiring someone or giving them a raise is an indefinite financial commitment.
Yet even if the funding is temporary, Pringle argues, it’s needed right now.