CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Salaries, student behavior, and burnout are just some of the concerns at least 700 West Virginia teachers are feeling that’s being reflected in a survey conducted by the West Virginia Education Association.

WVEA President Dale Lee met with members of the media and the association to discuss the results of that survey during a press conference Tuesday.

Lee said as it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find, recruit, and retain teachers among other school employees, this prompted WVEA to conduct the survey of 700 of its members in Nov. 2023 to try and gage the issues that’s keeping people away from the profession further.

The survey responses were broken down by age, employment classification, and length of service, and Lee said all of them say the same– they are not happy with the landscape of the current education system in the state.

“In all instances, the dissatisfaction was overwhelming,” he said during the press conference Tuesday. “And keep in mind, the working conditions of our educators are the learning conditions of our students.”

The survey found a 73% dissatisfaction rate with current working conditions in the past year in education, with just 2% saying they are satisfied.

MORE See survey results here

School employee salaries, student behavior, stress and burnout, cost of employee health care, lack of respect, employees leaving the profession, and public funding going to charter schools and vouchers were among the top issues participants revealed in the survey as to the cause of their dissatisfaction.

A total of 62% of the survey participants said they are experiencing higher levels of burnout with the profession than ever before, a statistic Lee said is even up from 2020 during the peak of the Covid-19 Pandemic. The burnout numbers showed they were highest among those working at elementary and high school levels, and early career employees.

The survey reveled 85% of members say that tax payer funding for education should only be used for public schools. WV_011624_Analysis_final

In addition, the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission indicates there is 14% reduction in the number of students entering the education program.

Lee said these results are not showing the future in education looking any brighter for the state based on the current trajectory.

“Couple this with the lack of students seeing education as a career, and you will see the staffing issues will continue to grow if something isn’t done to address these concerns,” he said.

While 54% of the survey participants said they are confident they will continue working in education as a career, nearly half of them said they are much more likely to retire or leave education earlier than planned.

A total of 35% said they are not at all confident they will continue working in education as a career, with early career employees being the highest of that percent once again.

Lee said in 2018, there were 728 teacher positions across the state without a certified teacher filling the role– he said that number had grown to 1,705 positions in 2023. Lee said this number will only continue to increase if nothing changes, and more issues will be created as a result.

“What that does is cause our students to have people that are not certified filling these positions,” Lee said. “I know first grade positions that have had 10 substitutes in a year, that’s doing harm to kids.”

However, participants said they could see themselves staying in the education profession if pay and compensation increased, student behavior, discipline policies, and school safety improved, and they were treated with more respect.

Lee said these are all issues states and school systems are dealing with across the nation, and they are currently working to mitigate the issues by offering significant pay increases and implementing other reforms.

He said, however, West Virginia has given pay increases to education employees in four out of five of the last years, but those increases have not kept pace with the other state’s pay raises.

“In the latest rankings in state salaries, West Virginia fell from 46 in the nation to 50th in the nation in average teacher pay, even though we had received those multiple salary increases,” he said.

Lee said now it’s time to take these proposed changes to better the state’s education system to the legislator.

He said WVEA plans to present the findings of the survey to both the Senate and House Education committees, but they want to work with the legislators to find the solutions, as he said educators are the ones who will truly benefit from the results of those solution findings.

“Senator Grady said this is a top priority for her, we will work with her to come up with something that makes sense,” he said. “But, that being said, the way to address this is to have the experts in education, the educators, have a say in the policy not just the politicians.”

Lee said WVEA also has a number of bills they plan to introduce and support at this current 60-day legislative session.