Educators discuss causes as teacher turnover increases at Utah schools

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SALT LAKE CITY – With Utah's high population of students and lower salaries for educators compared to other states, more teachers are leaving Utah after their first year. Education advocates say it could be because there’s not enough incentive for teachers to stay.

Nearly 2,500 new teachers joined Utah’s school districts in 2010. And, as of last year, more than 1,000 quit their jobs.

“For the first time this year, we had 500 vacancies,” said Ben Horsley, a Spokesman for the Granite School District. “That’s one-seventh of our teaching force that turned over, and we had 500 new teachers in Granite School District starting this last fall.”

Horsley said it could be because teachers in Utah don’t make as much money as teachers in other states.

“Teacher pay is part of that,” he said. “I think the stress of the job; it’s a very difficult job to manage upwards of 30 kids in a classroom. If you’re a secondary teacher, you’re going to be having upwards of 200-plus students to manage and grade.”

Mindi Layton, a teacher at Woodrow Wilson Elementary in Salt Lake City, said teachers also feel pressure to keep test scores up.

“There’s a lot of push lately on the data, and now this data and the testing push,” she said. “I think that’s one of the most stressful things that could be influencing the teacher shortages.”

And, she said there's not enough incentive when the average salary for a teacher in Utah is $36,000 a year.

“A lot of teachers feel that the pay is terrible,” Layton said. “We're 51st in the nation. We're the lowest in the nation. We're paid very poorly as teachers.”

Tom Nedreberg, vice president of the Utah Education Association, says he agrees teachers feel more pressure for students to perform well on tests and have little training when they start working in Utah's classrooms.

“We need mentors to work with teachers as they come into the classroom to let them know some of the realities of what it's going to be to be a teacher in the state,” he said.

Granite School District recently started offering new teachers bonuses to work in their classrooms.

“We were also able to negotiate a $500, one-time bonus for brand new teachers,” Horsley said. “And so if you’re coming out of college as a new teacher, you’re looking at one school district who’s offering essentially the same benefits and package, you might come to Granite School District because of that one-time signing bonus.”

Horsley said school districts could make their jobs more attractive to prospective teachers by offering bonuses or other benefits. But, ultimately, he says it's up to the Legislature to provide more funding for schools and teachers, which is not always easy in a state with a high student-to-teacher ratio, as is the case in Utah.

3 comments

  • Finny Wiggen

    I personally work an average of 12 hours a day. I then go home and correct papers. I spend around $300 a month out of my own pocket for supplies. My take home pay is $1,700 per month, not per week, or per two weeks, that is what I am paid for an entire month.

    This is FAR below minimum wage.

    I would teach for free. I am a for dot com millionaire. I can afford to work on the peanuts that Utah pays teachers. Honestly, I giggle when I get my “pay.” It is so low, that it is almost not worth cashing.

    I can afford to work on scrapes, but most teachers can’t.

    This is however not what is driving teachers away. The far bigger problem is the passive aggressive tactics used by the state legislature to punish teachers, or make them feel like they are not appreciated.

    Roughly 30% of your classroom time is used testing students to prove to the state out district that you are a good teacher. You then have to do endless paper work that ways your paid hours up. The result is that you use your own unpaid time to do your actual job. Ie, correct papers, and prepare lessons.

    Would you work for a company that paid you almost nothing, that constantly accused you of not being good at your job, that demanded you spend 30% of your own time proving you actually are doing your job, that even then still treated you with endless suspicion, that didn’t price you with the supplies that you needed, and that you had to work all night and all week end unpaid, to make up for the time you had to waste proving to your passive aggressive employer that you were good at what you did?

    The only people work under these conditions are those who see teaching as a spiritual calling. Just today, we had two teachers in our building nearly quit.

    I don’t think the state realizes how put upon teachers feelat the moment.

    Don’t worry about paying more. Just get out of the way, and let us do our jobs!!

  • NKC1990

    Is there really a question about the turn over rate? This is my first year teaching and I already feel like it won’t be a life long career. I love the children, but we are not provided the things we need to help the children succeed, I already make nothing and I always spend personal money on classroom needs. I have an endless amount of work and I can hardly balance any other area of my life because it’s so demanding. Teachers are underpaid and over worked. I dare the legislators to come spend one week in my classroom and see how they do and then be paid off of our salary and be told your pay will depend on the “success.”

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