TEXAS — According to a Texas teachers poll, 75% of public school educators have considered leaving the profession. The number has skyrocketed since 2020. 

Principal Scarlett Garcia has been an educator for 15 years in San Antonio.

“I originally started at Stonewall-Flanders in 2008 as a teacher,” Garcia said. “I made like a full circle and came back around.” 

She says running a campus in economically disadvantaged Harlandale ISD wouldn’t be possible without dedicated teachers.

“Ultimately, they’re the backbone on this campus,” Garcia said. “So, when they’re putting in the hard work, I need to make sure I’m advocating for them.”

Garcia believes being the support teachers need is why she could keep most of her staff. This school year, only three teachers didn’t return.

“Our teachers are essential,” Garcia said. “I think sometimes officials don’t really recognize the teachers and the hard work they put in.”

The Charles Butt Foundation recently surveyed more than 1000 teachers statewide to determine what challenges they face. The 2023 Texas Teachers Poll revealed staff shortages are a major stressor for 64% of teachers.

“We worry about teacher salaries,” said Dr. Shari Albright, president of the Charles Butt Foundation. “We heard about disrespect. And the profession not having the level of respect that is deserves to have.”

According to the survey, 96% of those teachers said a salary increase is extremely or very important. Other problems include excessive workloads and pressure for students to do well on standardized testing.

“Best way to recruit and retain, I would say is have them go back to where they came from,” said Dr. Lawrence Scott, Texas A&M-San Antonio associate professor of educational leadership.

Dr. Lawrence Scott led a discussion on teacher recruitment and retention at Texas A&M San Antonio. He believes if teachers have a genuine connection to the community, that would make a difference.

“All comes down to that big R, and that’s relationships,” Dr. Scott said. “As long as our teachers are interfacing with students and students and parents are interfacing with the teacher and community, teachers are going to stay. Teacher retention won’t even be an issue.”

Garcia encouraged other educators to lean on partnerships.

“Work together as a team. It’s no longer Mrs. Garcia’s school. It is the staff, and everyone included,” Garcia said.

She’s nurturing those relationships at her campus, making sure her staff feels seen and heard.

“Teachers want to feel appreciated,” Garcia said. “Sometimes it’s not always about the pay. We’re in this job and work environment, this work field because we truly love what we do.”

That poll also asked about proposed school vouchers. Only 15% of public school teachers support that effort, and 85% opposed implementing a voucher program if it means reducing funding for local public schools.