Nation braces for anticipated teacher stortage

Poor working conditions most common reason teachers give for leaving

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Amara Del Prato

Harder than it looks: First year English teacher Jasmine Flores says teaching is “emotionally draining” because of the work she must put in beyond her regular teaching day.

Amara Del Prato, Entertainment Editor

Teachers in the Los Angeles Unified School District were back at work after a week-long strike over pay and working conditions — but a larger threat might be looming: attracting and retaining enough teachers to fill the classrooms of California’s six million students.

Over the years, it has become commonplace for teachers to advocate for better salaries, smaller class sizes and improved conditions for students, but as districts struggle to meet budgets, an increasing number of teachers have been simply leaving the profession.

According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, roughly half of all U.S. teachers leave the field after five years. However, the teachers that choose to stay are fighting to effect change.

On Jan. 14, over 30,000 Los Angeles teachers went on strike. After six days and nearly $100 million lost in ADA (Average Daily Attendance) money, the teachers were able to come to a provisional agreement with the school district. The agreement included a six percent increase in teacher salaries, reduced class sizes and the hiring of more support staff in schools, such as nurses, psychologists and librarians. This agreement appeased the teachers for the time being, but many still say more change is needed.

“If I had smaller class sizes, every individual would be able to learn better because they’ll be given more attention,” first year English teacher Jasmine Flores said. “… I can walk around and teach everyone in the room instead of just the few who are having the most difficulty.”
Despite being one of the most expensive states to live in, California ranks 36th in the nation for per-pupil funding. Low teacher salaries are also a nationwide problem. Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan claimed that starting salaries for teachers should be nearly twice the current average of $35,000 due to the long hours they work.

According to news website upworthy.com, the average teaching day is actually 12 to 16 hours long; besides the seven hours spent teaching, teachers spend an average of five extra hours before and after school to plan for the day, grade papers and attend meetings.
“I feel like unless you’re a teacher, you don’t have any idea about the work that goes into it,” Flores said. “It’s more than just the lesson prepping — it’s emotionally taxing… the [number] of hours you put in.”

A common misconception is that teachers feel they are not properly compensated, largely because they have to deal with difficult students. However, teachers claim that students aren’t the main problem.

“The biggest factor in a teacher’s decision to leave a school is poor working conditions — not the students,” an article published on Innovate Public Schools said.

Ultimately, teachers want what’s best for their students, and when schools don’t give them the proper resources to educate, some teachers feel it’s best to leave.

“We work with students every day who face trauma and face hardship,” Garfield High School teacher Erika Huerta said in an interview with CNN. “So we’re [going on strike] as a life passion to improve our community.”