Celebrating National Teacher Day With a Wary Eye on the Future

By Celeste Busser

It’s National Teacher Day — part of a weeklong celebration of educators — but a new survey of American public school teachers by the National Education Association indicates that with state budget crisees threatening their jobs and their classrooms, there may not be much to party about.

Top trends facing America’s teachers are exacerbated by state budget crises nationwide, with a historically high number of layoffs topping the list of trends.

“We must remember what this means for our students and their futures,” said National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel. “Massive class sizes, less attention to individual student needs, fewer services — all mean our children won’t receive the education they need.

“How can we give our children a world class education when teachers and other education personnel are in unemployment lines instead of in classrooms and schools?”

Van Roekel and American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten joined U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), U.S. Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.),  and concerned teachers and parents today on Capitol Hill to urge Congress to make education jobs funding a priority. Read more about the event calling for passage of Harkin’s Senate bill, Keep Our Educators Working Act.

According to a new survey out today from the American Association of School Administrators, 275,000 teachers, support professionals and administrators could lose their jobs this upcoming school year. In addition, school districts are having to close schools, cut education programs, as well as increase class sizes and shorten the school year or week.

This and three other trends from NEA’s “Survey of the American School Teacher” paint a picture of today’s teacher:

Trend  No. 1: America’s public school teachers are facing massive layoffs.

*  Roughly 150,000 NEA members are affected.
* In New York, 15,000 educators’ jobs are in jeopardy; In Illinois 9,000 educators have received layoff notices; In California, 26,000 educators have received their pink slips.
* Nine out of 10 superintendents expect to lay off school personnel this fall.

Trend No. 2: America’s public school teachers are the most educated, most experienced ever.

* The majority of teachers hold one or more advanced degrees. Nearly half of all public school teachers (45 percent) hold at least a master’s degree.
* They have many years of experience. The majority of the nation’s 3.2 elementary and secondary public school teachers have an average of 13 years of experience in the classroom. The average age is 42.
* Public school teachers are highly skilled in the subjects they teach. More than three out of every four public school teachers engages in professional development programs every year.

Trend No. 3: Public school teachers’ classes, workloads and hours are increasing while their pay is not keeping up with inflation.

* Teachers across the nation are continuing to lose spending power for themselves and their families as inflation continues to outpace teacher salaries last year in many states.
* The national average public school teacher salary for 2007–2008 was $54,503.
* In 2008, public school teachers spent an average of 52.8 hours weekly on all teaching duties.
* Ninety-two percent of public school teachers spend, on average, $475 on classroom materials for their students.

Trend No. 4: Public school teachers come to the profession, and remain dedicated to their careers, for their students and the importance of education.

* Seven in 10 professionals enter teaching because of a desire to work with young people and nearly seven in 10 cite the same reason for remaining in their profession.
* Significantly fewer than one in 10 enter or remain in teaching for financial award.
* Approximately 30 percent of teachers leave the profession within the first five years of teaching.

“Teachers are the nation’s heroes—they motivate and inspire young minds and enable students to achieve extraordinary things,” said Van Roekel. “I want to thank all of America’s teachers, who work every day with students of every age, from pre-k through graduate school, for their hard work, enthusiasm, and commitment to making a real difference in students’ lives.”

NEA celebrates National Teacher Day each year on Tuesday of the first full week of May. The day celebrates the outstanding work and lifelong dedication of teachers nationwide.

This year’s theme is Great Teachers Make Great Public Schools. The theme emphasizes the important role teachers play in making sure every child receives a quality public education. Additionally, the theme celebrates teachers and underscores their importance in making great public schools a reality.

 For more information on National Teacher Day — including celebrities sharing stories of their most memorable teachers – visit www.nea.org/teacherday.