CEA press conference Credit: Courtesy of the CEA Facebook page

A new survey of 800 voters by the Connecticut Education Association seems to acknowledge the growing crisis facing educators, including a teacher shortage and increase in mental health issues. 

The survey conducted in December shows that 85% of voters believe teacher shortages are a serious issue, followed by student mental health and wellness. 

“This is a problem we solve today so we don’t have to solve it again in 10 years,” CEA President Kate Dias said. 

She said the Education Cost Sharing formula needs to be revamped and there needs to be more funding for teachers. 

“We either make that commitment today or we continue to watch our public school teachers look for another offer,” Dias said. 

The CEA held a press conference at the Legislative Office Building Tuesday to call for more money to be dedicated to education and for educators to be better paid. 

“We need to respect and pay our educators,” CEA Vice President Joslyn DeLancy, said. “They have countless certifications and hours in the classroom and they deserve pay that’s comparable to other professions.”

Nearly two-thirds of voters or 65% of those surveyed said teachers are not paid enough and 63% said funding for public schools is not enough to meet schools’ needs.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, who attended the press conference didn’t say what the General Assembly planned for education this year, but he said he expanded the membership of the Education Committee because so many lawmakers wanted to make it their number one priority. 

Rep. Jeff Currey, co-chair of the Education Committee, said every caucus in the building is passionate about education. He said it’s the first time in eight years he can remember that so many lawmakers talk about education before any other public policy issue. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic shined a bright light on the issues teachers have dealt with for decades—including a lack of support and resources to meet students’ needs, low salaries, and high levels of stress and burnout–all exacerbating the existing problems and leading to record numbers of teachers exiting the profession or retiring earlier than planned,” Dias said. 

Burnout, lack of respect, and inadequate funding to meet students’ needs are all factors driving the teacher shortage, but insufficient pay is one of the primary reasons that fewer people are entering the profession and more are leaving it. 

According to a CEA member survey released in November, 74% of teachers say that compared to a few years ago, they are more likely to leave the profession or retire early. That’s up from 55% of teachers surveyed by the National Education Association in January and 37% of teachers surveyed by CEA in the fall of 2021.

“We have dire staff shortages, and the current crisis is nearing catastrophic proportions as there are not enough educators to teach our students,” Dias said. “Something must be done, and quickly.”