More Teachers Are Facing Penalties For Quitting During Pandemic

More and more teachers are facing potential consequences for quitting their jobs during the pandemic, reports say.

Record numbers of educators found themselves leaving the profession during the pandemic, warranted by staff shortages and COVID-19 stress. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), around 600,000 teachers in public education quit between January 2020 and today.

But for some teachers, quitting their jobs also means possibly losing their teaching licenses.

North Carolina's WCIV-TV reported that in Charleston, North Carolina, teachers who leave their jobs before their contract expires could have their license suspended for a whole year.

One educator, Sydney Van Bulck, told WCIV that teachers leave for all sorts of reasons, but have no control over the disciplinary actions the school boards might take against them.

"I have talked to several teachers who have left mid-year for several reasons. One, the financial situation and mental health is a really big problem right now for teachers," Van Bulck said. "Unfortunately, there is pressure that we are being put under keeps escalating."

In Texas, data shows that school districts around the state have filed more requests in the last seven months to suspend or revoke teaching licenses than any of them have in previous years.

According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA), over 400 official job abandonment complaints from school districts were sent to the TEA in the fiscal year of 2022 which began in September 2021.

In January, the Pflugerville Independent School District board of trustees voted to report eight different teachers to the TEA, and Austin's KXAN-TV reported that during the January 20 meeting, trustee Jean Mayer said, "Moving forward, we will be holding staff accountable because it's causing harm to our students."

According to KXAN, the Texas State Board for Educator Certification has suspended over 300 teaching licenses due to job abandonment throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic.

On its website, the TEA lists possible disciplinary actions for teachers who broke contracts in order to quit. According to the list, the state could:

  • Require a person to withdraw from an educator preparation program
  • Suspend a certificate for a set term
  • Or even revoke or cancel a teaching certificate, "which includes accepting the surrender of a certificate without opportunity for reapplication for a set term or permanently."

In an earlier report, several teachers across the United States told Newsweek that they felt they were overworked and underpaid before the pandemic took place, but lockdown and COVID-19 protocols did not make that easier.

"I feel undervalued and underappreciated," one teacher, who wished to remain anonymous said. "I feel like, after seven years, I'm still living paycheck to paycheck."

Newsweek reached out to the American Federation of Teachers for additional comment but did not hear back in time for publication.

Plans for in-person learning return to New
Some teachers across the U.S. are facing disciplinary actions for leaving their jobs during the pandemic. In this photo, an empty classroom is part of the preparation for the return of in-person learning at Public School 143 on August 18, 2021, in Queens, New York. Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images