SHERIDAN — The Wyoming School Boards Association presented results of a survey to the Wyoming Legislature’s Joint Education Committee Monday, showing lack of respect for educational professions has resulted in difficulties recruiting and retaining staff.
The purpose of the survey was to collect non-monetary information from school districts about what factors have impacted recruitment efforts across the state. The survey was available to all 48 school districts Sept. 15-22; 42 districts responded.
According to Brian Farmer, executive director of the WSBA, the responses came from superintendents or individuals designated by the districts’ superintendents.
The survey showed certified staff and substitute teachers were the most difficult to hire and retain, and while 60% of respondents said pay has a significant impact on their ability to recruit and retain staff, 33% said it’s not the most significant factor.
Districts were also asked to identify factors that contributed to hiring challenges. Of the top five responses, 76% said lack of respect shown toward the profession played a role. Other top-five factors included taking on extra work due to staffing shortages, bureaucratic hurdles, losing staff to other professions and political tensions.
“I think historically Wyoming education has felt a strong partnership with the Legislature,” Farmer said. “But as you note, there are numerous instances today where that partnership feels strained.”
One example cited Monday highlighted a piece of legislation brought forward in early 2022 that would have required educators to list all the teaching materials they intended to use on a public platform.
While supporters pointed to the measure as a way to increase transparency, others said it was insulting for teachers and too time consuming for already overworked staff.
The Wyoming Education Association and University of Wyoming also presented results from a survey Monday. In January, the National Education Association conducted a survey across the US with more than 3,000 responses. That survey showed 55% of surveyed teachers are more likely to leave the profession due to staffing, salary and student support systems than they were a few years ago.
The WEA then launched a survey in March 2022, and received more than 700 responses. Of those respondents, only about 14% said they are very likely or likely to leave teaching. But, 65% said they are only staying in the profession because they have to for financial or other reasons.
The survey also showed mental health, assessment and levels of support were the top nonmonetary factors related to wanting to quit teaching.
Kim Amen, a longtime teacher at Pioneer Park Elementary School in Cheyenne, told legislators Monday only six and a half weeks into the school year, she is exhausted.
“Overwhelmingly educators talk about the need to be respected, trusted and valued,” Amen said. “The challenges in today’s schools are very, very real.”
She highlighted challenges of workloads, lack of training when new curriculum approved and burnout.
The WEA did outline recommendations to improve teacher satisfaction and lessen turnover in the profession. Those recommendations included additional mental health support; a review of all district and state-mandated assessments and what they measure to ensure they are appropriate; providing additional support for teachers while relieving the extent to which teaching is politicized; monetary considerations regarding pay for educators.