Washington Post's Coverage on WTU Survey of DC Teacher Morale

On Tuesday, October 25th, the Washington Post aired the results of a WTU survey of more than 600 teachers. Nearly half said they will likely leave their jobs in the next few years. Four out of five are unhappy in their jobs. As frustrations about the contract or lack thereof rise, teachers cite lack of a raise, rising inflation, increased workloads and teacher turnover as their main concerns. 

“Teachers’ dissatisfaction with their working conditions affects children’s learning conditions,” said Jacqueline Pogue Lyons, the union’s president, in a statement. “Teachers are stressed, overwhelmed and upset that they don’t get the support and compensation they need to do their jobs as well as they’d like to. As a result, more and more folks are leaving these jobs, and we have more vacancies than we can fill.”

The survey, which was conducted between Sept. 21-26 paints a grim picture of the city’s public school workforce. Teachers expressed concerns over a lack of support from principals, insufficient planning time and class sizes.

Ninety percent of teachers surveyed called retaining teachers in the District a “very serious” or “fairly serious” problem in the school district of about 49,000 children. The District has one of the highest teacher attrition rates in the country, the D.C. State Board of Education said in a resolution passed last week that called for a “prompt resolution” between D.C. public schools and the teachers union.

The D.C. Council will host a hearing Tuesday at 1 p.m. to discuss “what schools are doing to address teacher and principal turnover and strategies to increase retention of teachers and leaders,” according to a committee notice.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week at D.C. Bilingual Public Charter School, Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said she wanted the District to be a city for teachers.

“I am proud to be the leader of an innovative city, where we attract great talent,” Bowser said. “We are challenged, not just because we want to be competitive in compensation and benefits, that we have great culture, we have a growing housing stock for people of all incomes and this is a great place to raise your own children and families. But I know in the coming months and years I will continue to focus on how we are going to be the city for educators.”

However, the union, which represents 4,300 teachers in D.C.'s traditional public school system, has gone three years without an agreement. A quarter of teachers who responded to the survey said their “salary, no cost-of-living increase [and] no compensation for extra work” is an issue that has changed for the worse during that time. Teachers are, in part, paid based on how many years they have worked in classrooms. They have continued to get those step increases while the contract has lapsed. 

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