Nearly 70 percent of teachers in Los Angeles have seriously considered leaving the field, according to a new study from United Teachers Los Angeles.
The report, “Burned Out, Priced Out,” surveyed more than 13,000 teachers in the city and combines the results of last spring’s UTLA Educator Survey with analysis and data from state and national teacher shortage studies.
“I am leaving—this is my last year,” one teacher said. “I cannot take the stress and burnout of this job anymore. Over the last 8 years, teachers have been expected to shoulder more and more of the burden without adequate respect, compensation or resources. I can’t do it anymore.”
City teachers who are currently eyeing the exit list a combination of factors, chiefly bad pay, massive student loan debt, unaffordable housing, the expectation that teachers must buy classroom supplies from their own meager salaries—the average UTLA member spends $935 a year—and the rising cost of living.
The number of people who reported working as public school teachers in the United States fell by 6.8 percent from 2019 to 2022, with public school districts hemorrhaging 220,000 from its ranks. COVID has only exacerbated the problem.
“During the pandemic, this crisis has moved from a warning to an acute, everyday reality. Veteran educators are retiring in massive numbers,” the study’s authors wrote. “Early and mid-career educators are burned out and have been pushed to their breaking point. And the educator labor pipeline is running dry.”
Not surprisingly, the report predicts teachers will be even harder to come by in the future. The number of teachers quitting in 2020-21 increased 38 percent from the previous year not including retirements, which also increased. Public education employment in Los Angeles still faces a deficit of about 15,800 workers compared to February 2020.
Twenty-eight percent of teachers said they had to work more than one job to make ends meet, especially in their first ten years on the job, according to the UTLA report.
Gina Gray, a high school English teacher in Los Angeles, told the Guardian about having to pick up a second job working as an Instacart shopper when she first started teaching.
“It was so stressful, but necessary in order to be able to cover the pay gap. The compensation was just a lot lower than expected,” Gray said. “In Los Angeles county, especially in LA, the costs are enormous. Most teachers can’t even afford rent, let alone to purchase property with just a teacher’s salary.”
Some 66 percent of teachers cannot afford to live in the communities where they teach. That number is highest—approximately 77 percent—during the first ten years of a teaching career. “I cannot afford to live in the community I grew up in and now teach in,” said one educator.
According to the report, it’s no accident that municipalities are cheap with schools and teachers, nor is it caused by any true financial deficit.
“Educators, students, and families have dealt with the consequences of the deliberate underfunding of public education and social services for decades,” the authors write. “During the pandemic, these long-standing inequities were laid bare, and the demands on educators have driven the educator shortage to crisis levels.”
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