Teacher shortage: More people than ever leaving the job, fewer wanting to try it

Many teachers feel the profession has lost all respect in these politically divided times

In a recent interim study on the teacher shortage in Oklahoma, Rep. John Waldron (D-Tulsa) learned that retirements are up significantly, and it appears pay is not the main issue driving the exodus - though it certainly is a factor.

What appears to be prompting people to leave the profession is a combination of the massive difficulties brought on by COVID, along with sharp political attacks on teachers and their profession.

The classroom’s got a lot more burdens on it now, it’s a lot harder to be a teacher,” Waldron, a former teacher himself, told KRMG. “We took away protections for teachers in terms of mask mandates in the middle of a pandemic. We called them Marxists. So, what would you do if you were in the classroom and you were say 60 years old, and you felt your health was at risk?”

“I think a lot of people still have a great deal of respect for educators, and I think education is, on the whole, a respected profession,” Waldron said. “When polled, parents tend to say that they like their teachers. But they’re also receiving a lot of disrespect from vocal minorities that have been empowered by the nature of our times to go after educators, and some of them serve in the Oklahoma state legislature. And that’s a problem.”

Another teacher turned lawmaker, State Senator J.J. Dossett (D-Owasso) says lawmakers need to address that issue.

“To get that respect, that’s the element that I think we really need to find,” Dossett told KRMG, ”and we can start by not degrading them - as John said, making teachers our punching bag.”

Because not only does such disrespect prompt people to leave the job, it has a chilling effect on recruitment.

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