WASHINGTON — Will Foley loves teaching and loves working with kids. But after just six years in the classroom, the former special education teacher walked away from DC Public Schools.
“The pandemic turned everyone into crisis mode, which turned into a lot of ideas and consultants and people outside of the classroom making decisions for teachers,” Foley said. “You see the lack of resources in your building and you see money going to people making big salaries who are not working in the classrooms and they’re not working with kids. So, that kind of disconnect is really frustrating.”
Foley is far from alone. The great resignation that has swept multiple industries over the last few months has hit the DMV's teachers hard.
Donna Christy, the president of the Prince George’s County Educators Association, said she's facing the same problems in Maryland.
“They don't need to be micromanaged, and they don't need all these complex things pushing their way into the classroom,” Christy said. "The students want to learn, the teachers want to teach, let's just let them do that.”
Teachers say they’re overworked and underpaid. According to a survey conducted by The American Federation of Teachers in June, 79% of educators from PK through grade 12 are dissatisfied with their jobs.
“There's definitely a stress factor,” Kelly Adams, president of Fairfax Educators Association, said. “Fairfax is trying to address it. We're seeing more professional development days that will be offered as virtual options. We’ve definitely seen a trend of folks who are not necessarily retiring but are resigning from education to go and find something else where they will feel more valued.”
WUSA9 contacted numerous school systems in our region, and here’s a look at the numbers from the systems that returned our inquiries:
- DC Public Schools: 372 teachers have resigned since January 2022. DCPS is recruiting by launching an ad campaign and offering hiring bonuses.
- Montgomery County Public Schools: 1,070 teachers resigned. MCPS is currently looking to hire 488 teachers.
- Alexandria City Public Schools: 165 staff resignations between April and June 2022. ACPS has 79 total positions open.
- Fairfax County Public Schools: 896 teachers resigned last school year. FCPS is actively recruiting for 695 vacancies.
“In Prince George's County, we carried 800 vacancies all year last year," Christy said "We were unable to fill them all. That puts extra stress on the educators that are there, it makes class sizes larger.”
Adams said larger class sizes are one of the worst things a school can do for students.
"But that's sometimes what we face when there aren't enough teachers for a class,” Adams said. "Fairfax has also looked at cutting courses. So, some of the more specific classes as you get higher into high school, that they may not be able to offer those.”
While the school systems are holding massive job fairs and working with local universities to hire more teachers, union leaders said easing the workload, empowering teachers and boosting their pay will help recruit and retain.
“You can't fill a bucket with a hole in it," Christy said. "So, even as we address the pipeline of bringing more educators into the profession, you're never going to fill the bucket if we don't stop people from leaving the profession."
"Everyone needs to get good quality educators and good quality support staff for next year, Adams added. "Everyone's in the same rush to do it as soon as possible ... we're up against that time deadline."
When asked what it would take to convince him to return to the classroom, Foley said it's about more than money.
“D.C. pays well but it’s still not enough with the cost of living," he said. "Let teachers do the job they are hired to do.”
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