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(CNN) -- Most teachers who leave the sector do not retire or be fired, but resign.
Nearly half of public school employees — who work in elementary and secondary schools — who left the profession in March quit, according to preliminary figures released in May by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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Resignations peaked early in the Covid-19 pandemic, before suffering a slump in late 2020. But in the past two years, resignations have risen again, worsening an already severe teacher shortage in the United States at a time when school districts are struggling to hire new teachers.
With school shootings on the rise and learning disrupted by a pandemic increasingly affecting teachers, public education is facing serious challenges in attracting and retaining qualified staff, says Becky Pringle, president of the National Education Association (NEA). the largest teachers' union in the country.
One in three professors say they are likely to quit and look for another job in the next two years, according to a recent survey by the EdWeek Research Center and Merrimack College.
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Over the past decade, resignations have consistently outpaced other reasons for dropouts, with the exception of the early months of the pandemic, when teacher layoffs increased.
"It's like a five-alarm fire," Pringle says. "This is not new, but like everything, the pandemic made it worse."
Since the shooting at Uvalde Elementary School in May 2022, there have been 66 shootings at schools across the country, including college campuses, and 41 shootings at elementary and high schools, according to data collected by CNN through May 25.
Educators feel the weight of grief a year after the shooting, Pringle says. More than 60% of teachers say they are concerned about a mass shooting occurring in their schools, according to a 2018 survey by the NEA.
"[Teachers] are anxious, and they're in mourning," Pringle said. "Pain, because pain is cyclical, not finite, is arising in them again."
Briana Takhtani was one of the teachers who decided to submit her letter of resignation. She left what she called her "dream job" teaching at an upstate New York high school in 2021, after being hit hard by rising school shootings and the pandemic. After taking a sabbatical, he has returned to the classroom teaching seventh grade in New Jersey.
"We're not just teachers, we're a bit like counselors or babysitters. Sometimes we play mothers," Takhtani told CNN. "With covid and everything else, it became too much for me to manage day-to-day and still feel sane."
As teachers leave, jobs open up in public education, but no one accepts them.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were more than twice as many openings as hiring in March. Vacancies began to outpace hiring before the COVID-19 pandemic, but the gap has only intensified since then, exacerbating the shortage of educators.
More than half of U.S. educators say they are more likely to retire early due to the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a 2022 survey by the NEA. That rate was higher for Hispanic or Latino and black teachers.
Only 20% of public elementary and middle school teachers are people of color, according to data from the National Center for Education Statistics for the 2020-21 school year.
"Right now, when we need more [teachers of color], we have fewer of them," Pringle said. "And our teachers of color, particularly black teachers ... They are leaving disproportionately."
Teachers say school systems must do more for their students. High on the list of proposals educators said they support to combat burnout, after raising salaries and hiring more teachers, was providing additional mental health and behavioral support for students, according to the NEA's 2022 survey.
"We don't have the number of counselors, mental health professionals or nurses ... that educators need, in general, to help," Pringle said. "[Teachers] are leaving, because they don't feel like the system is helping them take care of the students."
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The shortage of educators is also partly due to notoriously low teacher salaries, Pringle says.
Teacher pay has stagnated over the past two decades when adjusted for inflation, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Similarly, it is at a great disadvantage compared to other professions that require similar levels of education and experience.
"We hire them and they leave very soon because of the salary," Pringle says. According to the EdWeek/Merrimack College survey, nearly half (45%) of professors say they do not feel respected or considered professionals by the general public.
"In America, respect for your work is equivalent to pay," says Melissa Parrish, a first-grade teacher in Los Angeles, California. "So the lack of pay is like a lack of respect for the work that people do."