The real reason teachers are quitting

Defend our teachers. Pay our teachers. Value our teachers. The work they do determines our future. 


There’s a war being waged on America’s teachers,  and we must stand up for them before it’s too late.

Teachers watch over America’s most precious asset — our children. 

They dedicate their lives to caring for our youth, serving as role models, and making sure that future generations are set up for success.

So why on Earth are we treating them so badly?

Our nation’s teachers are not only working long, demanding hours inside and outside of the classroom — but they’re blamed these days for almost everything imaginable.

They are yelled at by parents over masks, reprimanded by school boards about books they assign or let their students readvilified by politicians for teaching honest lessons about America’s history of racism and genocide, even told to arm themselves against the possibility that their classrooms might be invaded by murderous young men with semi-automatics.

Teachers are also making less money than they were ten years ago. Their average salary today is around $66,000, but when adjusted for inflation, that’s a $2,000 pay cut compared to 2012.  As recently as 2018, nearly 600,000 public school teachers had to work a second job.

We’re also saddling our nation’s educators with huge debt. Nearly half of teachers, 45%, have taken out student loans to pay for the advanced degrees often required of them — with an average debt load of $55,800. 

On top of all this, 94% of teachers have had to dip into their own pockets to buy school supplies. This, in the richest country in the history of the world! And at a time when the average Wall Street employee bonus for 2021 hit a record high of $257,500. It would take the typical teacher almost four years to make that much — and that’s just a bonus for Wall Street traders — a massive golden cherry on top of their ever-sweeter salaries.  

I’m guessing Wall Street firms don’t make traders pay for their own pencils. 

Are Wall Street bankers really worth so much more than the people we ask to care for and teach our children? P-l-e-a-s-e.

Yet none of this has stopped Republicans from accelerating their war on teachers, and turning educators into political pawns in their battle to advance a radical agenda. 

Since January 2021, 35 states have introduced 137 bills limiting what educators are allowed to talk with their students about – with regard to race, American history, politics, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Governors Greg Abbott of Texas and Ron DeSantis of Florida are poster boys for this campaign, even supporting legislation that intrudes on a teacher’s ability to craft lesson plans

Republicans are quick to lob the terms “critical race theory” or “wokeism” against any curriculum that allows our youth to express their identities, advances critical thinking skills, and is honest about our nation’s tragic racial history — calling it “indoctrination” or “brainwashing.”


Because the biggest threat facing the Republican Party is a new multi-racial generation of young people unafraid to speak truth to power. 

Ultimately, if we don’t learn from our history — which often means learning from our mistakes — there’s no way we can tackle our nation’s most pressing problems while building a better, more inclusive future. The foundation for this future begins in the classroom. 

So how can we fight back against this war on America’s teachers?

First, pay them twice as much as they’re earning. Bare minimum. 

Second, fight for their freedom to teach. Many of the decisions that affect teachers’ day-to-day work — as well as the lives of students — are made at local school board meetings. So, go to one. Better yet, run for a position on your local school board.

Third, listen to our teachers. Do you know what’s been lost in the cultural and political war against education in this country? The voices of ACTUAL teachers. If we’re going to truly support them and repair the harm done to our education system, they need to be heard.

Defend our teachers. Pay our teachers. Value our teachers. The work they do determines our future. 


If you liked this article, please donate $5 to keep NationofChange online through November.

Previous articleNPR devotes almost two hours to Afghanistan over two weeks—and 30 seconds to US starving Afghans
Next article‘Great day for labor’: NLRB rejects Amazon attempt to overturn union win
Robert B. Reich is Chancellor's Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center for Developing Economies. He served as Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, for which Time Magazine named him one of the ten most effective cabinet secretaries of the twentieth century. He has written fourteen books, including the best sellers "Aftershock", "The Work of Nations," and"Beyond Outrage," and, his most recent, "Saving Capitalism." He is also a founding editor of the American Prospect magazine, chairman of Common Cause, a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-founder of the nonprofit Inequality Media and co-creator of the award-winning documentary, Inequality for All.