COLUMBUS, Ohio — APRIL 20: The Ohio Department of Education in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Graham Stokes for Ohio Capital Journal. Republish photo only with original story.)
Union officials representing thousands of Ohio teachers say policy pressures are at the top of teacher concerns, and the lack of resources piled on to lawmaker threats to regulate curricula create an environment many are eager to escape.
In the most recent data, Scott DiMauro of the Ohio Education Association said Ohio has 17,000 fewer individuals employed in education compared to the year prior to the pandemic, and the drop in educators was bigger than the student population drop.
DiMauro told a meeting of the Ohio Legislative Children’s Caucus that teachers are “concerned about top-heavy mandates,” along with a lack of time to teach and plan, plus attacks from outside groups accusing teachers of perpetuating “divisive concepts.”
Pay is also a big part of the problem keeping teachers. DiMauro pointed to an Economic Policy Institute study that showed weekly wages for educators had remained “relatively flat” since 1996.
Teachers have also seen a wage gap or “wage penalty,” according to the EPI study, showing individuals in the profession receive a lower wage compared to others who have similar education and experience but work outside the profession.
The Ohio Federation of Teachers did their own survey of its members, and found 72% of the more than 2,600 members who responded have seriously considered leaving the profession in the last few years.
OFT president Melissa Cropper said several issues affecting teacher retention were identified, including directives from policymakers, which 78% of survey takers said was a major issue for them, along with the emphasis on standardized tests, which affected 74% of OFT member participants.
“Basically it boils down to not being able to use their education and their professionalism to be able to determine what actually happens in their classroom, and not having the resources to deal with what happens in the classroom,” Cropper said.
Cropper and DiMauro said the promise of funding for the Fair School Funding Plan in the new budget, currently under consideration by the Ohio House, is encouraging, and DiMauro supported language to increase the minimum teacher salary from $30,000 to $40,000 is also a good start to incentivizing teachers to stay in the state.
In the current draft of the budget, the traditional school district funding is largely the same as the governor’s budget proposal. Allocations are set to increase in fiscal year 2024 to $8.05 billion and to $8.27 billion in FY 2025, according to an analysis by the Legislative Service Commission.
The statewide average base cost is also set to increase 12.1% under the current budget version, to $8,241 per student. Career tech base cost funding is also set to increase to $9,726 in each of the next two years, up 9.4% from FY 2022-2023.
Funding of a “grow your own teacher” program in the state was also looked upon well by education advocates, and something that other states are using to support teachers, according to Molly Gold, senior policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures.
“Part of expanding pathways to the profession is removing barriers,” Gold told the children’s caucus.
Other states have pushed for minimum teacher salary increases similar to the Ohio effort, along with teacher tax credits, student loan forgiveness, and even housing and child care assistance. Teacher residencies have brought more diversity to the teaching profession as well, according to Gold.
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