BOISE, Idaho — The Idaho Education Association (IEA) found that 51% of Idaho educators are looking to enter their retirement early or are leaving the profession. IEA cites a recent poll sent out to Idaho educators to collect that information.
"We have not seen numbers this high previously, we have had an attraction and retention problem in the state, there is a teacher shortage across the country, so this isn't new, but it is becoming a broader concern,” Layne McInelly, the president of the Idaho Education Association said.
According to McInelly, the reason many teachers want to leave their industry is because of low teacher salaries and the cost of living rising in the Gem State. Additionally, he said pressure on many teachers increased during the pandemic.
"We are already having a teacher shortage, so the attraction and retention from educators is going to continue to decline if we don't see the governor's recommendations pass through the legislature this year," McInelly said.
Jacqueline Jablonski was a teacher for 33 years. For part of her, time she taught in the Boise School District and The West Ada School District. Jablonski decided that 2021 would be her last school year as a teacher.
"I made less than my nieces and nephews and kids coming out of college in other professions,” Jablonski said.
According to Jablonski, there are many reasons teachers are leaving the industry, in addition to low wages.
"My last year - when it was in and out, in and out - I don't even know, once I started hearing what the meetings were going to be like and what everything was going to be like this year, I went you 'have got to be kidding me'” Jablonski said.
Jablonski said it is overwhelming to read and grade papers, lesson planning, test scores and remind students to keep their desks clean, wash hands and social distance all at the same time. While she hoped to continue teaching, the stress and mental strain from the pandemic was not worth it.
"Everyone has been asking me if I'm going to be a substitute," Jablonski said. "I could get paid more working at McDonalds or Starbucks than substitute teaching, so why?"
Seeing recent trends, Jablonski said she worries about what the future hold for Idaho teachers and students.
"They want to be loved, they want to make connections and they want to learn and there are a whole bunch of people out there who want to be those people for them, but not when it comes at the risk of burnout, mental health, frustration, exhaustion, low pay - that you can't even afford a home," Jablonski said.
While teachers and staff dedicate their time to education, establishing connection and developing students' education, she added that the future is worrisome and steps need to be taken to create a better work-life balance, ease mental exhaustion and create affordable wages for Idaho teachers.
"Unless they are willing to make the work environment a pleasant one, and I don't know how that's going to happen, but we are losing a generation of kids for connections,” Jablonski said, "There's going to be more mental health issues, the suicide rates are going up and not only with kids, but even a lot of the teachers."
According to a new study released by the National Education Association Tuesday, more than 37% of teachers nationwide are considering leaving the profession altogether.
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