by Aziah Siid
After three long years of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is one thing that rings true — the same way it has for ages: Teachers are overworked, schools are understaffed, and education professionals are underpaid.
Everyone from teachers and cafeteria workers, to custodians and support staff like paraprofessionals are not being compensated for the hours or energy they put into the job.
While some teachers have reported feeling more resilient and say their job-related stress levels has returned to pre-pandemic numbers, there’s yet another survey telling folks teachers are overworked and underpaid compared to other working professionals.
And Black teachers say they’re particularly getting the short end of the stick.
Indeed a new RAND survey released on Sept. 11, experts asked teachers about their total hours worked, total contracted hours worked, and total hours worked for extra pay per week. The study’s authors wrote that they wanted to know about these things because “in some states, more teachers left their jobs at the end of the 2021–2022 school year than in the two previous school years and at rates higher than pre pandemic averages.”
In addition, they noted that “When teachers leave their jobs, student achievement can suffer, and the cost of replacing teachers can be high.”
So at the end of it all? Teachers overall said they want an average $17,000 increase in base pay to feel their compensation is adequate.
During the school year, teachers worked more hours per week – 53, to be exact – on average than all working adults, who clocked in for an average 46 hours. About one out of every four hours teachers worked per week was uncontracted and uncompensated, according to the national survey.
These findings echo a previous national survey from Rand that found during the pandemic, a combination of lack of administrator support and a salary of less than $50,000 were both associated with teachers intending to leave the profession.
Black Teachers Are Fed Up
The data from the Rand survey shows clear racial divides, in that Black teachers were more likely than white teachers to consider leaving their jobs.
A recent look at state administrative data in Arkansas, Pennsylvania, and North Carolina found that, during the pandemic, Black teachers were more likely to resign than their white colleagues, which was already a pre-pandemic trend.
In addition, Black teachers reported working more hours per week, receiving slightly lower base salaries, and being less satisfied than white teachers with their base salary.
The report’s authors wrote that Black teachers “were statistically significantly more likely to report working more than 60 hours per week.” They found that 27% of Black teachers did so, compared to 14% of white teachers.
The survey shows that pay, hours worked and working conditions are interrelated, suggesting that pay increases alone – without improvements in working hours or conditions – are unlikely to bring about large shifts in teachers’ well-being or intentions to leave the profession.– ASHLEY WOO, COAUTHOR AND AN ASSISTANT POLICY RESEARCHER AT RAND
The report also found that a mere 24% of Black teachers “considered their base salary to be adequate,” while 35% of white educators do. Nationwide, Black teachers reported average base salaries of about $62,500, which is nearly $5,000 lower than average salaries reported by non-Black teachers.
Percentage of teachers who said they are considering leaving their job who selected each reason as one of their top five most important reasons for thinking about leaving their jobs
Why Teachers Are Leaving
It’s been quite some time now that a profession people once used to occupy for a lifetime has now become a stepping stone to other careers.
Teachers, especially Black teachers, are leaving in droves, and there’s more to blame than inadequate pay. More than half (56%) of teachers reported experiencing burnout in January 2023, a number that has not changed since January 2022.
Even prior to the pandemic, low pay, perceptions of poor administrator support, high workload, and poor or negative relationships with coworkers were some of the school-specific factors that factored into teachers’ decisions to leave their jobs.
Teachers’ report of average contracted hours and average hours worked per week, by race and ethnicity and years of experience
The RAND researchers recommend increasing teacher pay, reducing hours worked – particularly uncontracted and uncompensated hours – and improving working conditions to boost teacher retention.
“The survey shows that pay, hours worked and working conditions are interrelated, suggesting that pay increases alone – without improvements in working hours or conditions – are unlikely to bring about large shifts in teachers’ well-being or intentions to leave the profession,” Ashley Woo, coauthor and an assistant policy researcher at RAND, wrote in the study.