Job satisfaction among K-12 school employees has plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic due to increased stress, challenges with hybrid and distance learning, concerns over safety, and financial worries.

A new report from the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE) found that the vast majority of K-12 employees reported feeling stressed (63 percent), high levels of burnout/fatigue (54 percent), and substantial anxiety (47 percent) at work due to the pandemic. In March of 2020, just before the pandemic, K-12 employees had a 69 percent general satisfaction with their employers, but by  October 2020 that figure had dropped to just 44 percent.

The report further found that work hours have increased substantially during the pandemic. Nearly half (41 percent) of K-12 employees reported that they were working more hours in October 2020 than they were before the pandemic. According to respondents, this is most often due to the extra work that online/remote work entails (78 percent), an increased number of parent or student meetings (52 percent), and an increased number of work meetings (50 percent).

While schools across the country have struggled with balancing student and teacher safety with ensuring learning standards are being met with distance and hybrid learning, teachers remain very concerned with going back to the classroom full-time. The survey found that 60 percent of K-12 employees perceive themselves to be at risk of exposure to COVID-19 at work, compared to 38 percent of other government employees.

In terms of financial security, the majority (60 percent) of K-12 employees reported that they and their families have been negatively impacted financially by the pandemic, compared to 50 percent of other government employees.

Burnout due to increased work hours, safety fears, and financial worries are leaving state and local governments in a precarious position when it comes to keeping teachers in classrooms. More than one-third (38 percent) of K-12 employees said that the pandemic has made them consider changing jobs, as compared to 25 percent of other government employees. These findings come as state and local governments are already struggling to recruit and retain teachers.

“These findings should ring the alarm bell for policymakers grappling with the short- and long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the U.S. education system and the K-12 workforce,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, Ph.D., senior research manager at SLGE. “State and local lawmakers are tackling complicated issues – coping with remote learning, vaccinating teachers, transitioning children back to schools, addressing school budget and teacher compensation, and filling staff shortages. We hope these findings will help inform public policy decisions on critical issues that impact K-12 workers, children, and families.”

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Kate Polit
Kate Polit
Kate Polit is MeriTalk SLG's Assistant Copy & Production Editor, covering Cybersecurity, Education, Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs