Connecticut Education Association President Kate Dias speaks during an Oct. 18, 2023 press conference. Credit: Photo courtesy of the Connecticut Education Association

Roughly three quarters of Connecticut teachers are increasingly considering leaving their jobs or retiring early, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Connecticut Education Association, which found high levels of frustration and burnout among educators.

The teachers’ union surveyed more than 7,600 educators and found about 74% of respondents were more likely to leave or retire from the teaching profession early than they were a few years ago, while 64% reported discouraging family and friends from pursuing a career in education.

“If you look at our data, it’s telling a story of a group of educators that are stressed out, overwhelmed by the responsibility of their jobs and not feeling tremendously supported in the execution of that work,” CEA President Kate Dias said during a press conference outside the state Capitol building.

The survey represents bad news, not only for the teachers and their students, but also for school districts across Connecticut, which began this school year as they struggled to fill vacancies in teacher and paraeducator positions.

Although the 74% of teachers considering departing the profession is consistent with the results of a similar poll released last November, it represents a significant increase over a January 2022 survey, when only 55% of teachers were mulling an exodus. As recently as September of 2021 only about 38% of teachers were considering leaving early.

Dias attributed the increase to mounting expectations and a lack of support.

“Teachers are far more than just educators,” Dias said. “We are the mental health coordinators, we are the family resources, we are the outreach on every possible issue or concern that our schools have and that is really starting to take its toll on our teachers.”

Among the leading concerns found in the poll were 98% of surveyed educators reporting serious or very serious concerns about stress and burnout and 97% voiced concerns about politicians and non-educators making classroom decisions.

Staff shortages and educators not being respected were the next most alarming issues with 95% and 94% of teachers voicing serious or very serious concerns.

The survey also quizzed teachers on their support for proposals to recruit new educators and address Connecticut’s teacher shortage. Nearly all of those surveyed, 99%, supported raising teacher salaries.

During the press conference, Jennifer Rodriguez, a teacher in Newington, called on lawmakers to step in and require that teachers be paid more.

“They must force the issue. This is a national crisis. This shortage is real. Increase the pay and this will attract educators to our state,” Rodriquez said. “End the shortage in Connecticut. Pay us what we are worth. Pay us what our education and our experience dictate.”

Several state lawmakers spoke at Wednesday’s press conference, including Rep. Jeff Currey, an East Hartford Democrat who co-chairs the legislature’s Education Committee. Currey said he hoped to build on $150 million in increased state support for local school districts passed in the two-year budget adopted this year.

Currey said policymakers may have to “get creative” if they want to directly impact the salaries of Connecticut teachers.

“We have 169 fiefdoms, we have 200-plus districts, we have a ridiculous amount of contracts and nothing is going to be the same,” he said.

Currey suggested finding a way to make teacher salaries more uniform, either through setting them at the state level or having conversations with regional Councils of Governments, known as COGs.

“Doing this in 169 different silos is just simply not going to work and we can’t expect the distressed municipalities to tax our way into providing the additional resources,” he said.