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Texas teachers are stressed out. A four-day workweek might help -- but it won’t cure everything

“I’m done. I’m exhausted,” said one teacher at a recent Little Elm ISD board meeting.

DALLAS — “Something needs to change.”

“Morale is at an all-time low.”

“We are losing people at alarming rates.”

“I’m done. I’m exhausted.”

Those are all quotes from teachers who spoke at recent school board meetings in Little Elm ISD.

But, data suggests educators at all school districts in Texas feel the same way.

In 2022, 77% of Texas teachers who took part in a random survey from the Charles Butt Foundation said they had seriously considered quitting the profession. That was up from 68% in 2021 and 58% in 2020.

TEA data shows more than 11.5% of Texas teachers did quit the profession before the 2021-2022 school year began. That’s the highest rate of attrition recorded in at least 15 years.

There are hundreds of Texas teaching jobs currently being advertised online.

“We are failing to put professionals in front of our students to provide them with the education that they deserve,” one teacher said to Little Elm trustees.

A father who spoke at the same meeting said his 11th grade daughter started the year without enough teachers to teach her class.

"You cannot point to one specific reason for so many teachers leaving the profession," said Bob Popinski, senior policy director at the non-profit Raise Your Hand Texas.

“My wife is one of those teachers who’s been teaching for over 20 years, so it hits home pretty hard,” he said.

Popinski said low pay is a huge problem, and an excessive workload exacerbates it.

Four-day school weeks are gaining traction across Texas to give teachers more time to plan and catch up.

The TEA is not tracking districts that have made the move, but the Texas Classroom Teachers Association is and counts more than 40 across Texas. About 15 of those districts are in North Texas.

Little Elm ISD tabled discussion about moving to four-day weeks because the district is looking for a new superintendent.

Board members decided to make the hire before committing to the schedule change.

Talk of the schedule change drew many teachers to recent meetings.

“I would definitely agree to a four-day week, just to see if it would help change anything,” one teacher said.

Raise Your Hand Texas has no official policy position on four-day weeks.

Popinski said the most power to change teachers’ lives lies with Texas lawmakers.

“With this historic amount of surplus, if we don’t invest in our students now, then when are we actually going to do it?” he asked.

Popinski said lawmakers absolutely need to increase teacher pay.

But, he also said building a strong mentorship program for people entering the profession, giving scholarships to up-and-coming teachers, and providing additional mental health supports to all educators are also important to recruiting and retaining teachers.

But, so is finding a way to somehow lighten the workload.

“It’s important that we take the pressures away that we can and give the gift of instruction back to the teacher,” Popinski said.

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