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North Alabama teachers leaving education field at alarming rate

Teacher resignations are one problem, but when combined with one-third of teachers statewide up for retirement, there aren't enough people to fill those positions.

Posted: Nov 15, 2021 10:29 PM
Updated: Nov 16, 2021 2:39 PM

Last week, after Huntsville City Schools released a year's worth of HR reports. According to the documents, more than 250 teachers quit in the past year and about 55 retired, leaving more than 300 open positions to fill.

With roughly 1,800 teachers in the entire school system, this means they lost about 16% of their workforce in only one year.

"They are not going to have enough employees left, maybe as early as next year, to have school," said Beverly Sims.

It's a desperate plea from the Alabama Education Association, as the District 3 director, Sims, said teachers throughout North Alabama are leaving at an alarming rate.

"This thing that's been reported at Huntsville City Schools, the same is going on in Madison County, Madison City," Sims said.

Teachers aren't leaving one school system, either. They're leaving the entire field.

"I have been hearing from teachers the past few weeks. Some of them don't even care if they have somewhere else to go," Sims said. "They are ready to walk out, and they're ready to get out of education."

Teacher resignations are one problem, but when combined with one-third of teachers statewide up for retirement, there aren't enough people to fill those positions.

"We really cannot afford for large numbers of teachers to walk away right now, because there just are not teachers out there waiting in the wings," said state Superintendent Eric Mackey.

Mackey said one reason teachers are leaving is an increase in student outbursts.

"Teachers feel like they are having to shoulder the weight of student and family mental health needs," Mackey said. "They feel like students are coming to school more stressed."

However, Sims argued, it's more than just stress.

"We have kids that are beating up teachers, beating on teachers, that are destroying classrooms," Sims said.

The combination of lack of discipline and low teacher salary leaves no incentive for educators to stay.

"You're talking about a bus driver that has to deal with unruly kids, and then you're talking about some of our aides that are being beat on every day," Sims said. "They can go to McDonald's and flip burgers and make more than they're making in the school system."

Huntsville City Schools mainly kept up with their hiring needs, bringing in about 290 new teachers in one year. However, Mackey said the number of college students who want to be teachers has dropped 25% over the past few years, so there are going to be fewer and fewer people to fill these positions if nothing changes in the education system.

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