Burnout, low pay: Senate committee holds hearing to address nationwide teacher shortage

Advocates in education from both Maryland and Virginia testified on Capitol Hill Thursday, warning lawmakers that the growing teacher shortage needs to be addressed now. 

The hearing comes as schools across the DMV struggle to hang on to staff, with many citing low pay and burnout. 

School Districts in our region like Arlington, Fairfax, D.C and Prince George’s County are in competition to fill jobs as the candidate pool continues to shrink but they’re not alone. 

Across the nation, advocates say teachers are fed up with feeling underappreciated and underpaid. And many of them aren’t just leaving their school districts, they’re leaving teaching altogether.

The Senate Education Committee is looking at the challenges from teacher shortages. 

Stress and burnout are big factors in teachers quitting their jobs but low pay is pushing many of them out the schoolhouse door. In the 2022-2023 school year, the average starting teacher salary was $44,530.

Dr. William Kirwarn, an author of Maryland’s landmark education funding law said teachers need better compensation and training.

"For teacher compensation, as professionals, teachers should be compensated at the same level as other professionals requiring similar levels of education such as architects and CPAs,"  Kirwan testified. 

While Nicole Neily with the Arlington-based organization Parents Defending Education warned that parents are losing faith in their school district's ability to fix the problem. 

"America’s education system is failing the very students it was designed to serve and trust between parents and districts have shattered, Neily said. 

For years, D.C. Maryland and Virginia have competed to hold onto teachers they have while recruiting new teachers but it’s an uphill battle. According to a Senate report, approximately 44% of new teachers are leaving the job after only five years.  

"Nearly 8% of teachers leave their profession each and every year which is double the rate of countries like Canada and countries around the world" Sen. Bernie Sanders/Senate Education Chairman

While Democrats are calling for more school funding, Republicans want better spending of the money that’s already been approved.

"Now one thing that cannot be ignored is we’re spending more money per child on education than ever before in our nation’s history," said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., who aslo serves on the Senate Education Committee.

In Maryland, the new "Kirwin Commission" school funding law will boost starting teacher salaries to $60,000 by July 1, 2026. And in Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin’s budget increases teacher salaries 3% in each of the next two years.