Nearly 1,300 Idaho teachers left the profession in 2011, up from about 700 the year before.
More than half of the educators who abandoned teaching last year left for “personal reasons,” according to data from the state Department of Education.
School districts reported another 96 teachers were fired and 85 were laid off in 2011, which is about the same as the previous year. The remaining 579 educators left to continue their education or because of military and family obligations. Other reasons included death, leave of absences or a spousal transfer.
But the number of teachers leaving the profession for personal reasons more than doubled to 697 in 2011, up from 314 in 2010, according to records that the Idaho Education Association requested from the state’s education department.
The statewide teachers union is saddened to hear more teachers are leaving but not surprised, said Idaho Education Association President Penni Cyr. She pointed to new education changes that were introduced last year to limit collective bargaining and eliminate job protections, among other things.
Idaho is also phasing in mobile computers for every high school teacher and student while making online courses a requirement to graduate under the plan, which shifts money from employee salaries to help pay for the changes. Public school chief Tom Luna wants the state to offset a planned $19.4 million reduction to salaries in 2013 under his reform plan.
“Teachers are demoralized all over the state,” Cyr said.
The changes backed by Luna have made the state less attractive to educators, said Cyr, who pointed to a drop in the number of Idaho teaching certificates being issued to people living outside the state.
Idaho granted 633 teaching certificates to educators living outside Idaho in 2011, down from 661 the year before.
Luna countered that his reform plan, called Students Come First, is not to blame.
The data showing more teachers are leaving the profession were collected before the changes were introduced into Idaho schools this year, he said.
However, legislation was approved in the final hours of the 2011 Idaho Legislature to speed up the effective date of the reforms. The move, which made the new laws go into effect immediately rather than July 1, aimed to take the steam out of a voter referendum on the sweeping changes.
Teachers bargained under the new laws last spring, the union said.
Luna maintains that the recession is more likely the culprit for why more teachers are breaking from the profession. For example, a teacher might have left to follow a spouse who lost his or her job and moved to another state to find work, Luna said.
“I think what you’re seeing is because of the economy,” he said.
Critics predicted that educators would flee Idaho because of the reforms and get jobs teaching elsewhere, Luna said, though data from last year show fewer teachers left Idaho for education jobs in other states. The number of teachers who left Idaho for an educational institution in another state dropped to 48 last year, from 119 in 2010.
“These numbers do not support the doomsday scenario,” Luna said.