OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Some school districts in the metro area are facing a similar issue to schools both state and nationwide — a shortage of teachers.
"In the last 10 years, we’ve had a 50% decrease of educators going into the profession and, with those that are going into the profession, 40 to 50 percent leave within the first five years. They’re not staying, like I’ve been a teacher for 35 years," said Jenni Benson, President of the Nebraska State Education Association.
Benson said attacks on public education are a reason teachers aren't staying in the profession as long as they once did.
"You’re not going into education because you want to make a fortune, right? However, if you’re constantly hearing by elected officials, by other people, that what you do is not valued, that becomes wearing on you. Also, the amount of work. So what we need to do is say, 'Here is a very important profession'," Benson said.
Many say the COVID-19 pandemic also made them more likely to retire or leave the profession altogether, earlier than they had originally planned.
"With last year it was really the combination of you had safety concerns and really until vaccinations were available it was in the back of your mind. It didn’t matter if you were masked and cleaning, obviously those things helped but you still had that lingering fear until vaccines were really the game-changer," Tim Royers, President of the Millard Education Association said. "But on top of that, you were working harder than you would anyways. Whether it was teaching remote students and in-person students at the same time. Whether it was teaching purely remotely, every district did things differently, but regardless it was way more stressful and way more work than a normal year."
State and local associations are working on programs that they hope will help better the retention rate, which in turn would also encourage young people to enter the profession.
"One of the things I’ve heard a lot from teachers is to have more flexibility and more adaptability to better meet their needs. So for example one of the things we’re doing this year in Millard, we’ve worked with the district on is some of the teachers can work some of their workdays from home," said Royers.
Benson said the NSEA is working to better connect teachers to build stronger networks.