Why are teachers quitting?

Sandra ClarkLet's Talk

Updated to reflect that Susan Horn (District 5) is NOT on the 2022 ballot. The school board race out west is between Republican Betsy Henderson and independent candidate Phillip Michael Sherman. Henderson did not respond to the LWV’s invitation to the public forum. Also, Horn did not “sponsor” the resolution to cut public forum from 3 minutes to 90 seconds. That was Evetty Satterfield, who chaired Wednesday’s meeting in the absence of Kristi Kristy.


Once again, Nashville’s NewsChannel 5 is ahead of the story. Reporter Emily West says an analysis showed more than 1,000 teacher openings during the first week of July 2022. During the 2021-2022 school year, the state had 1,024 unfilled vacancies, according to data from the Tennessee Department of Education. From that same school year, the state issued 1,354 permits, which give a person an emergency credential to teach in the classroom without any teaching license.

West’s report is shocking, but not to anyone who has been paying attention.

Thomas “TC” Webber

Nashville education blogger TC Weber says the shortage “ain’t all about money.” He posted: “Look at it this way, if I’m paying you $100 dollars a day to repeatedly beat you with a baseball bat, you are going to tire of it quickly. So then when you are about ready to quit, I raise the rate to $1,000. You look at the money and try to convince yourself that for that kind of money you could handle getting beat with a bat all day. But, after a little while, it’ll start to sink in, you don’t want to get hit with a bat for any amount of money. That’s where we live with teachers.”

Tennessee teachers were beaten with a bat by Hillsdale College president Larry Arnn, at a private meeting that someone videotaped and shared with NewsChannel 5. Gov. Bill Lee sat silently nodding and never made the slightest effort to defend Tennessee teachers and universities’ teacher training programs while Arnn said:

“The teachers are trained in the dumbest parts of the dumbest colleges in the country. … We are going to try to demonstrate that you don’t have to be an expert to educate a child because basically anybody can do it.”

Andy Spears, writing in the Tennessee Education Report, says the shortage is not just teachers and school staff. He cited the Hechinger Report which found a sudden rise in vacancies among school district superintendents. The turnover rate was 25% last year, a 10-point increase over a typical year.

Locally, Superintendent Bob Thomas retired last month. Union County Superintendent Dr. James Carter resigned at a June board meeting when he didn’t get the support he felt his staff deserved from board members. Carter later said he would finish out the school year, but then he’s out.

Dr. Jennifer McCormick

Former Indiana State Education Superintendent Jennifer McCormick also is out. She now tweets @suptdrmccormick and posts here. Here’s a recent tweet: “As a result of over a decade of poor policy leading to a teacher workforce crisis, now … a teacher in Indiana requires no degree, no teaching exams, no teacher prep program training and no license. Think about that.”

Larry Arnn (and apparently Gov. Lee) already have. Arnn says teaching is no big deal. Anybody can do it.

Thursday morning, Powell resident Margaret Massey-Cox, herself a teacher who quit long ago to go into business, told Knox TN Today that the local school board’s effort to cut public speakers from 3 minutes to 90 seconds means perhaps their political mailers should read, “Vote Republican, then sit down and shut up.”

As if to prove her point, the Republicans boycotted Thursday evening’s school board forum. Early voting starts today, folks, and the League of Women Voters and others organized a time for candidates to discuss issues. Watch it here.

Board chair Kristi Kristy and District 4 candidate Will Edwards said they had conflicts. District 6 member Betsy Henderson and District 7 candidate Steve Triplett just didn’t respond to the invitation.

Sandra Clark is editor/CEO of Knox TN Today.

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