NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The overall rate at which teachers are leaving public schools has been steady in recent years, despite a recent sharp increase in retirements, Louisiana education officials said Monday.
State's teacher retirement system figures showed the number of those calling it a career increased to 3,295 in the year that ended June 30, compared to 2,598 the previous year. The apparent retirement uptick came as Gov. Bobby Jindal pushed an education overhaul package through the Legislature.
The Department of Education analysis released Monday shows the overall rate of teachers leaving their jobs — for retirement, promotion or other reasons — has held steady at around 12 percent. A department spokeswoman also said the Teacher Retirement System of Louisiana numbers can refer to other employees at K-12 schools, not just teachers.
Some local superintendents have complained that their systems have been strained by retirements and resignations.
New teacher certification rates have increased slightly, from 3,005 new licenses issued in 2008-09 to 3,136 in 2010-11, the report said.
"Steady hiring and attrition contradict anecdotal concerns that teachers are leaving the profession en masse with no new employees to fill their positions. Neither is true," the report said.
The report renewed debate over the effects of Jindal's education overhaul, which the state's two largest teacher unions opposed.
"A stable attrition rate only means that enough teachers are entering our classrooms to replace those who leave," Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, said in an email statement. He said experienced teachers are leaving and morale among teachers is low.
State Superintendent of Education John White said data also shows that teachers who have stayed are more likely to be highly effective, based on studies of a subset of teachers evaluated under a pilot "value-added" system the state is adopting.
The state had 52,519 public school teachers in 2009-2010; 51,485 in 2010-2011; and 49,978 in 2011-2012.
Jindal's broad education system overhaul, pushed through the Legislature last spring, included a revamp of laws governing job security for teachers, making it harder to earn and keep the job protection known as tenure.
The superintendent of the Central School System and the president of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents said he has had reports from superintendents in various systems who say teachers are resigning or planning retirements.
Michael Faulk said Monday that teachers are expressing uncertainty over evaluations and tenure standards that are based heavily on improvements in student performance. He said they are worried that student absences and discipline problems could affect their job security.
Faulk said he has been able to find certified teachers to replace those who leave the Central system. But he lamented the loss of experienced personnel.
"What happens is, when they leave, they leave with all the training that we've provided, all the preparation that we've had for all of our staff to get them to be at a level that they can succeed, whatever is thrust upon them," he said.
White said retaining high-performing teachers is always a challenge. "Our superintendents are, in the aggregate, already doing it," he said.