VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. — Pay, politics and student behavior – 9 Investigates is getting a firsthand look at the real reasons why teachers are leaving local districts.
Investigative Reporter Karla Ray went through dozens of exit surveys from teachers in two of our local districts, Osceola and Volusia, and immediately saw patterns.
Teachers don’t get into the profession to become rich, but they also don’t expect to struggle as much as they do amid inflation.
“I couldn’t afford to be a teacher anymore,” one local teacher wrote in an exit survey this past year. “I couldn’t afford to pay my bills and I had to find a career that would pay me more.”
“Students were very disrespectful,” another local teacher wrote. “Lack of parent support, lack of administration support, and most of all the unjust pay over the years I worked. New teachers are getting paid the same or more than I was, even though I have 18 years of service.”
“After teaching for 19 years I was making the same pay (and some years less) than first year teachers. A true slap in the face,” a third teacher wrote.
These are just some of the reasons that teachers gave for resigning from Central Florida schools over the last year.
Of all of our local districts, only Volusia and Osceola school leaders keep this information in a central database.
Volusia Schools’ recruitment and retention officer agreed to talk about the trends. Tiffany Fuller points out that fewer incoming teachers actually have a background in education; many studied something else entirely, creating a learning curve that’s costing districts as some teachers leave before they can even be properly trained.
One teacher wrote the material was “overwhelming’ to learn in a “stressful environment.”
“Not having an educational background, I felt like I was drowning,” the teacher continued.
Another teacher wrote, “I was never trained the whole time I worked there. I have never taught before prior, and my degree is not in education. So training should have been a must for my success and the students’ success.”
“That direct pipeline has changed as we are bringing in other qualified candidates who come from other markets and other professions,” Fuller said. “We have to support them differently so that we can retain them better.”
In Volusia County, new teacher orientation includes information specific to new members of the profession, in hopes of keeping them.
Though low pay isn’t a new issue, book bans and new regulations about instruction from Tallahassee are adding to the stress.
Two Volusia County teachers mentioned that in their exit surveys.
“Fascist takeover by Moms For Liberty and shameful acquiescence among District leaders. You’re sheep,” one wrote.
“The politically-based changes happening to our profession on a district and state-level are alarming, and have many historical parallels,” the other wrote.
An Osceola County educator went even further, writing, “The state witch hunt for teachers supposedly teaching ‘Critical Race Theory’ and discussing LGBTQ+ issues. Parents (and students!) labeling things such as slavery or the gay rights movement of the 1950s/1970s as part of this new criteria - when in reality it is just true historical fact, is the biggest reason I am walking away. I received my degree in History (not social studies education) and I refuse to alter/manipulate historical fact, teach partial-truths, or not answer questions that my students may have on these issues.”
Fuller admits the exit surveys are disheartening to read.
“It’s always hard,” Fuller said. “Our goal is to provide an opportunity and a workplace that’s beneficial and positive for everyone, 100%.”
The State Department of Education knows the absence of a clear pipeline is a problem, too, identifying the biggest gaps for certification in the subjects of Exceptional Student Education, English, Science, ESOL, Reading, and Math for this school year.
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