“Respect” is more than a song. It’s a rallying cry to all educators, especially as the new school year starts across the country. There are teacher shortages in major cities. A strike is happening in Columbus, Ohio. Many wonder what can be done to improve the relationship with our teachers and it all revolves around respect.
National Education Association President, Becky Pringle joined the Russ Parr Morning Show to discuss what can be done to address the teacher shortage, back to school and more.
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RUSS PARR: Well, on the phone line right now, her name is Becky Pringle. She’s president of the National Education Association, NEA, the country’s largest professional union representing 3 million educators. It’s always great to have you on Becky, how you doing this morning?
BECKY PRINGLE: I am doing really, really well. It’s so good to be with you again.
RUSS: Absolutely. Well, you know, I’ve been looking at all the data. And of course, you know, this, there’s a teacher shortage out there. You’re talking about an estimated 300,000 educators are needed to fill positions? I think the big question is, what is going on? Why are we losing, you know, the heartbeat of education in this country, and that are our teachers.
PRINGLE: First of all, thank you for having me on again. You know, this is that time of year where everyone is excited. You know, I taught middle school science for over 30 years, every single year, this time of year, the start of the school year, was exciting for me. I raised two children, who I also thought they were excited. New clothes, new shoes, notebooks, a lot of excitement around the country to be back together with our students, with our colleagues. And that happens every year. We cannot however, ignore the reality that we are going back to school again, with an educator shortage by the redrocks. It’s not just our teachers, we saw that throughout the pandemic, right. Our drivers are school service workers. And there’s no question that it is a crisis in our schools, because we know if we don’t have enough teachers in front of our students, our students are the ones who are searching.
RUSS: Yeah. Interesting. You know, I think one of the big things is that, you know, all the kids are going back to school, everybody’s excited. How do you compensate for not having enough teachers? Who’s going in and actually teaching these kids? Because I’m not sure if it’s attention, assistant teachers and things like that? What are you guys doing to address that situation?
PRINGLE: We are talking about the fact that this is not a new crisis. Russ, we been sounding this alarm for almost two decades. Mainly because we saw fewer and fewer college students going into the profession of teaching. And then we saw so many teachers leaving in that year, one to year five, and so we’ve been talking about this chronic educator shortage for a long time. One of the things that we are pushing folks to do is to look at this as a long term, complex solution that’s needed. But I will tell you, Russ and I know you’ve heard me say this before, at the top of the list for educators, is respect. And I mean that in every way. Respect as professionals to make decisions about what our students need to know and be able to do. Respect in terms of compensating educators so that demonstrates right, the importance of their work, and we respect to make sure that they have the resources and the support to do the job they love.
RUSS: Yeah, because you know, we just don’t value what teachers and educators bring to the table. I mean, they are just molding the minds of generations that will help the country to help everybody get to the next level. And I think one of the big things is because you know, there’s tremendous, I know, some teachers, they’re burned out, they’re just burned out, because they don’t feel like they get any support. And especially, you know, when they’re dealing with some kids that you know, classroom overcrowding, and the whole nine and and the parents call you and ask you, well, what did you say to my child in order for my child to get upset? I mean, it’s like, and I don’t like to use the term, you know, glorified babysitter. That’s not what it is, in most cases. But in some cases, it is. It only takes one or two kids to disrupt the whole class and I you know, I have a friend right now, they’re trying to get out. Because it’s like, I’m just burned out, I just can’t take it anymore.
PRINGLE: There’s no question that we have many educators who are overwhelmed, particularly our educators that are teaching in schools, where we, where there has been chronic underfunding of those schools. Where they had to stand in every single gap, Russ know that, you know, forever, we take money in a pocket, right? To make sure I have it. But during the pandemic, you saw it, everyone saw it where teachers are driving around and providing meals, not just for their students, but for entire families, taking, taking money out of their own pockets to provide technology tools so that they can continue to learn. And when you continue to ask educators to do that, when we know that it’s a shared responsibility for all of our students to be successful, we can’t fill in all of those social gaps to make sure our students are fed, they have glasses when they need to be able to see. They aren’t living in food deserts. They have housing, we have more students who are homeless. And so that is overwhelming. Also a shortage of jobs. So we have educators who are not having their time to plan for their students are not taking time for lunch. They’re not taking time for themselves. And we know that the well being of our educators is directly connected to the well being of our students. So we have to, we must put in place the resources to not only make sure we have enough teachers, but we have enough counselors and nurses, those professionals to eat the individual needs of students. All of those things are what we are fighting for at the NEA and demanding that our our elected officials provide for schools and for educators and for students most of saying.
RUSS: Well, I’m glad you’re the president of the NEA because I hear your passion, Becky, and it’s always a pleasure to have you on and you can use this program anytime you want. You need to disseminate some information. I’m here for it. Becky Pringle.
PRINGLE: Say that again. Russ? (Laughs)
RUSS: You gotta hold me to it. No, no doubt. You know, your predecessor knows, you know, my phone is wide open for anything that deals with you guys. And my mom was a teacher. My father was a teacher. You know, we have teachers on this show. So I really appreciate what you do. We need to start every teacher out at $150,000 a year. That’s what we need to start with. Becky Pringle, thank you so much.
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