Is dissatisfaction really driving teachers from the classroom or even out of Utah?
Roger Mouritsen, coordinator of teacher certification in the State Office of Education, said there seems to be no serious "leakage" yet, but the numbers are hard to determine.At the end of 1986, 2,377 new teachers were employed to fill vacancies. However, some of those vacancies were related to new positions in school districts and to teacher retirements.
"We have no data on teachers who are leaving the state, but we have a sense that the number is increasing," Mouritsen said. "Some are unhappy about budgets and knowing that it may get worse and are trying to leave.
"There is no question some are leaving to go out of state. Some leave because they are dissatisfied, some because their spouse is taking a new job, or for other reasons," Mouritsen said.
Several factors influence teachers to stay where they are, even if they are unhappy, Mouritsen said. The present job market in Utah doesn't offer them many options, for one thing. Many of them are secondary wage-earners in their families and are captive to the spouse's job. Many have too much time invested already and would lose retirement benefits by bailing out now, they said. Trying to sell a house in today's market can preclude moving.
Their training, particularly for elementary school teachers, does not provide a ready switch to an entirely new profession. Specialists, such as teachers in science, math, business and other subjects that more readily translate to another job, may find more opportunity either in another state's education system or outside education. A Utah music teacher recently went to New Mexico's school system for a $9,000 annual salary increase in another teaching job.
Teachers can't even move readily within the state system to find better- paying jobs in the districts that have higher pay levels, Mouritsen said. District policies often "discount" a teacher's past experience so that attempting to cross boundaries is not attractive. In rural districts, the policy often creates a "staleness" in the teaching ranks, he said.
Some districts are relaxing their criteria, allowing for individual negotiations or increasing the number of years that will be credited a teacher desiring to move from one district to another, he said.
A number of teachers included in the Deseret News survey have, indeed, left the state to try to upgrade their salaries or escape overcrowded classrooms. They sent letters from Missouri, Wyoming and Las Vegas.
The teacher now living in Las Vegas wrote, "I have moved out of Utah because of economic advantages elsewhere. I feel Utah teachers do a tremendous job with what they have to work with. I feel, however, many quality teachers have and are leaving the teaching profession due to increasing frustrations and lessening job satisfaction. Here in Las Vegas, a maid in a hotel makes $13,000 a year. That's about $2,000 less than a first-year teacher can make in Utah. That doesn't compensate for the time and money a teacher spends in getting a degree."
Another wrote from Missouri that he couldn't accomplish his goals, including home ownership, on what he made in Utah. He added that in his new locale, he feels his credentials would have been better had he sought additional education. In Utah, he said, he was discouraged from getting more training because school districts tend to hire teachers with less preparation because they don't have to be paid as much.