50% of teachers surveyed say they've considered quitting, blaming pay, stress and lack of respect

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From West Virginia to California, teachers across the U.S. have mounted large-scale strikes in recent years, demanding higher pay, better working conditions and better learning conditions for their students.

A report released this week captures just how extreme their frustrations have become. Half of teachers surveyed say they have recently considered quitting teaching.

PDK International, a professional association for educators, polled 2,389 American adults, including 1,083 parents of school-age children and 556 public school teachers — 50% of those 556 teachers say they have considered leaving the profession.

This is the 51st year PDK has conducted the survey but this is the first year teachers have been asked about their plans to quit. Joan Richardson, who oversaw the poll, says it's clear that the teaching profession is becoming less attractive to Americans.

"We ask parents whether they want their children to become teachers and when we started asking that question in 1969 there was good support from parents for having their children enter the teaching profession," she tells CNBC Make It. "But when we asked the same question in 2018, for the first time, a majority of parents said they did not want their children to become teachers."

She says the attitudes of those currently employed as teachers are similar.

"This year, when we asked teachers whether they wanted their own children to follow them into the profession, a majority of them said they did not," says Richardson. "We do see a shift over time. As the teaching profession has become a lot more difficult, we've seen a lot less interest in the part of both the public and on the part of teachers in encouraging others to follow them into the profession."

High school teachers were the most likely to say they have considered quitting, with 61% saying they have thought about leaving the profession. "I am not just considering it. I am getting out," said one teacher quoted in the report. "There is no support. We are asked to do too much for too little money. We are treated like trash by administrators, students, parents and the district."

Of those who said they have considered quitting, 22% said inadequate pay and benefits were to blame. About 60% of all teachers surveyed said their pay is unfair.

PDK International

"I work 55 hours a week, have 12 years' experience, and make $43,000. I worry and stress daily about my classroom prep work and kids," said one teacher. "I am a fool to do this job."

"After working in my profession for five years, my annual income is $30,000 before taxes," another teacher told PDK. "I will never be able to own my own home at this rate."

Teacher pay across the U.S. varies significantly. The most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the annual mean wage for a high school teacher ranges from $85,300 in New York to $42,540 in Oklahoma.

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These regional differences in pay are reflected in the attitudes expressed to PDK — 60% of teachers in the Northeast said they are fairly paid, 47% on the West Coast said they are fairly paid and roughly 30% of teachers in the South and Midwest said they are fairly paid.

Since most teachers have at least one post-baccalaureate degree, such as a master's or doctorate, teacher wages are often relatively low compared to other professionals with similar levels of educational experience.

"I have a master's degree and more than 25 years' experience and am making less than I was making 10 years ago but am putting in many more hours now," said a fourth teacher.


Many of the parents polled by PDK agreed that teachers are should be paid more. Nearly 75% of parents of students in kindergarten through high school said they would support a teachers strike in order to get higher pay for teachers and 84% of parents said they would support a strike in order to secure more funding for school programs.

Among teachers however, the most common justification for going on strike was to advocate for increased school funding. The second most common reason given by the 50% of teachers who are considering quitting is stress (19%) followed by lack of respect/not feeling valued (10%). 

Across all teachers, 52% said they feel valued by their community.

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