After three years on the job, roughly 1 in 3 Arkansas teachers leaves the profession, according to a Bureau of Legislative Research report released Tuesday.
Stress and workload are top reasons, followed by salary and retirement benefits. To stay in the profession, teachers said, more pay and better benefits would help, but reducing paperwork and administrative burdens was the No. 2 priority for improving retention.
"They feel like they are increasingly being asked to do an impossible job without enough support, respect and compensation and all the other factors here combined. It's not that they don't want to work hard. Most choose to go above and beyond because they love their students," said Ginny Blankenship, a legislative analyst at the Bureau of Legislative Research. "But they feel like the constant changing mandates and lack of autonomy in their classroom and support amongst administration, the community and often parents are crushing their motivation and affecting their well-being."
Variations of the phrase "Let me teach!" was one common response to a survey.
Blankenship explained to a joint meeting of the House and Senate education committees what that means: "Stop making me go to unnecessary meetings, stop providing unnecessary professional development to me that does not help me help my children, stop adding new policies without taking old irrelevant policies away."
Rep. Bruce Cozart, R-Hot Springs, added, "Those are the same stories we hear."
In a separate report, the Bureau of Legislative Research said there was a short supply of specialized teachers in classrooms. Special-education teachers -- who face especially burdensome paperwork requirements -- were most needed.
More than 440 waivers were filed for special-education teachers who did not meet state requirements during the 2014-15 school year.
"The stress level for special-education teachers, the high level of paperwork -- all of those are disincentives for those teaching that field," said Sen. Uvalde Lindsey, D-Fayetteville, who chairs the Task Force on Autism.
He said the Arkansas Department of Education is reviewing the paperwork burden with an eye to reducing it.
In critical shortage areas, Blankenship said, 1,115 students were enrolled in educator-preparation courses but 1,747 jobs needed to be filled. In non-shortage areas, there are more students enrolled than jobs available.
The number of educators in training continued to decrease in Arkansas in 2015, according to the report.
"We have a distribution problem," Blankenship said.
Among the information released was a list of average teacher salaries at each Arkansas school district. Rogers, the No. 1 district, paid an average of $59,732 to teachers. Hughes, which ranked last of the 236 districts, paid an average of $35,132. The median salary was $43,015.
Metro on 04/13/2016