Teachers are increasingly dissatisfied with their jobs, with budget cuts, larger classroom sizes and increased levels of stress all contributing to the problem, according to a nationwide survey released Thursday.
The annual MetLife Survey of the American Teacher shows the lowest level of job satisfaction among teachers since the group began the survey in 1985.
According to the survey, which was conducted toward the end of 2012, teacher satisfaction has declined 23 percentage points from four years earlier, and is down 5 percentage points from 2011.
"We've seen a continuous decline in teacher satisfaction," Dana Markow, vice president of youth and education research for pollster Harris Interactive, told the Huffington Post's Joy Resmovits. Harris Interactive conducted the poll for MetLife.
The survey shows that half (51 percent) of teachers report feeling under great stress several days a week, which is an increase of 15 percentage points over 1985.
The least satisfied teachers are those who work in schools that have slashed budgets, and who have less time for collaboration with peers and professional development than teachers at other schools.
The poll found that 86 percent of teachers and 78 percent of principals reported their schools face budgeting problems, and 73 percent of teachers and 72 percent of principals said it's hard to engage their communities to improve public schools.
"When teacher dissatisfaction is at a 25-year high, school leaders have to stop ignoring the red flags and start listening to and working with teachers to figure out what they and their students need to succeed," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers union. "How many more surveys and polls do we need before we give teachers the tools, resources and support to help their kids, especially with today’s greater challenges and accountability?"
The survey does not break down responses by state, but it's no secret that teachers in Wisconsin have been under stress. Many joined massive protests at the Capitol in 2011 when Gov. Scott Walker introduced Act 10 — his bill that stripped collective bargaining rights from most public employees.
The combination of diminished bargaining rights and reduced funds for education in Walker's first biennial budget led to increased employee benefit payments, a wave of teacher retirements and also put many school districts under financial pressure.
The combination of that, plus increasing demands for school and teacher accountability, led one teacher in Whitefish Bay to tearfully tell her school board last week that she is resigning. In a widely shared story on Whitefish Bay Now, high school math teacher Christine Kiefer was quoted saying:"I love teaching kids and I love the kids' families and I love my colleagues and I love Whitefish Bay, but I cannot wait any longer. I can't stay at a job that sacrifices all my time for my own family — at least two hours every school night and between six to 12 hours every weekend — time after the bell rings, time that produces such good results when there is no good faith effort on the part of the district to pay what I am worth, to pay me what you would probably have to pay an equivalent replacement for me."
In the article, a Whitefish Bay School Board member told Kiefer they have little power to improve matters because so many key decisions are made at the state level. Two years ago, the article said, the state cut the district's funding by $2 million.
"Our hands are tied," School Board Member Cheryl Maranto said. "I know the reason we are surviving is because of what happened to your pay and benefits."