TEXAS — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday sent a letter to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath instructing him to create a task force with the goal of addressing teacher shortages across the state.
“I am directing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to immediately create a task force to help school districts address the ongoing staffing shortages they face. This task force should investigate the challenges teacher vacancies are causing for school districts, explore best practices for addressing this shortage, and research the possibility for flexibility of certification, placement, and hiring,” the letter reads in part.
Texas has been plagued by teacher shortages, staff absences and difficulties locating substitutes since the outset of the pandemic. Abbott said the task force should “work diligently to ensure that best practices and resources for recruitment and retention are provided to districts to ensure the learning environment of Texas students is not interrupted by the absence of a qualified teacher.”
Abbott’s letter doesn’t bring up barriers to teacher retention such as low pay, stagnant wages, hardships created by the pandemic including difficulties associated with virtual learning, or the state’s law prohibiting the teaching of so-called “critical race theory,” which has made some teachers fearful about broaching topics related to race, sexuality and gender.
According to a survey released in February by the Texas American Federation of Teachers, roughly two-thirds of Texas educators recently have considered leaving their jobs.
Texas ATF surveyed 3,800 members in November 2021.
“The fact that two-thirds of educators are thinking about quitting is really frightening. In addition to long-neglected low wages and the stress of increasing workloads, the Omicron surge has created unbelievable chaos,” Texas AFT President Zeph Capo said. “Educators witness every day the devastating effects on our students when schools have staffing shortages. It’s only going to get worse unless teachers’ concerns are addressed.”
According to the survey, educators blamed low pay, stagnant paychecks, concerns for their safety and increased workload for mulling a career changes.
Asked what would make them stay on the job, 45% of respondents indicated pay incentives including raises and retention bonuses, 35% said they want changes to the workplace including a reduced workload, and 8% indicated safety improvements.
A 2021 report from the National Education Agency shows the average starting salary for a Texas teacher is $44,582 and the average salary is $57,090, which ranks 27th in the nation.