Teacher attitudes by the numbers

It’s one thing to say, as Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr has, that “Teachers are demoralized all over the state,” after passage last year of sweeping now education laws proposed by state Superintendent Tom Luna, and previous years of state-level budget cuts.

It’s another to come up with statistical evidence, but the Associated Press has done just that.

It looked first at the number of teachers departing Idaho public schools. The number of teachers fired or laid off has actually been fairly stable. The number of teachers leaving the profession “for personal reasons” (which could include a wide range of motivations) was 314 in 2010. But it spiked drastically to 697 in 2011. The education bills were passed early in 2011.

Meantime, what about teachers from out of state seeking licenses to teach in Idaho? Those applications amounted to 661 in 2010. Given the exodus the following year, you might expect that number to rise to help fill the gap. But no: That number fell in 2011, to 633.

Why the change? The AP quoted Luna as saying, “I think what you’re seeing is because of the economy.” But wouldn’t a bum economy encourage teachers to hang onto their jobs? Wouldn’t this be the most difficult time to quit?

He pointed out that fewer Idaho teachers, in 2011 compared to the previous year, have gotten teaching certificates in other states. But that could, and probably does, have an economic cause: Most states have been scaling back on their school budgets and trimming teacher rolls where they can.

What this really seems to speak to is teachers too discouraged to keep on teaching. It’s what seems to pass for education policy in too many places these days …

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