BISMARCK — A recent survey by North Dakota’s largest teachers’ union found that more and more educators in the state feel unappreciated, disrespected, overworked and feel a general sense of frustration about their profession amid the COVID-19 pandemic and “relentless attacks” from politicians.
More K-12 teachers are quitting or considering quitting their jobs, and in a survey conducted earlier this month by North Dakota United, which represents more than 11,500 public school teachers, only 41% of the 1,100 respondents said they would stay on as a teacher until retirement. a dramatic drop from the 90% who said they would when first hired.
“When you take all of this as a whole, what we see is a lot of frustration on the part of teachers caused by things that they have no control over,” North Dakota President Nick Archuleta said at the Forum. . “I think it’s not far down the road that can create very real problems for education in North Dakota.”
Teacher retention is a major concern this year, Archuleta said, and 74% of teachers believe it will continue to be an issue in the 2022-23 school year, according to the survey. All school districts in North Dakota are experiencing a shortage of educators and substitute teachers, he said.
Fargo Public Schools had 141 quits between July 2021 and January of this year, nearly double the number of quits in the district a year ago, according to data from the Fargo Public Schools Office of Human Resources. Eleven teachers resigned between July 2021 and January 2022, and almost 50% more teaching support staff resigned during this period compared to the previous year.
In addition to teacher burnout, 53% of educators also experience at least “some pressure” from politicians and parents to teach in a “less controversial” way, according to the survey. Archuleta said that’s not surprising given the rhetoric from some state lawmakers.
During the special session of the North Dakota Legislature last November, the vast majority of lawmakers voted in favor of a bill banning the teaching of critical race theory. Lawmakers have acknowledged that college-level theory is not taught in North Dakota’s K-12 schools. However, they said the bill was needed as a preventive measure.
Archuleta said teachers were caught in the middle of the controversy and the stress was weighing on them.
“Teachers go into education because they really want to have a positive impact on the lives of these children, not to become political football,” he said. “That’s not what they signed up for, and they shouldn’t have been in the middle of a fabricated political melee, because that’s really not an issue in the schools.”
In the poll conducted earlier this month, only 40% of teachers said they felt appreciated, down from 55% in a 2019 survey that asked the same question.
Going forward, Archuleta said North Dakota needs legislative action that specifically supports teachers and positively increases public perception of the teaching profession.
“Teaching is still a remarkable profession and among the most important in our country,” Archuleta said. “We have to appreciate teachers for everything they do.”
Readers can contact Forum reporter Michelle Griffith, a Report for America staff member, at [email protected]