Poll: Crushing Workloads Burning Out Educators; Right to Bargain for Smaller Classes Would Improve Retention

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A majority of Maryland educators report that classes are so large, stress levels so high, burnout so exhausting, and staffing shortages so prevalent that they are more likely to leave the profession or retire early, according to a recent poll conducted by the Maryland State Education Association (MSEA).

Poll findings include:

Educators statewide are experiencing a crisis with unmanageable workloads, attrition among peers, and failure to hire enough staff in all school positions—teachers, administrators, and education support professionals. Too many students cannot get all the individual attention they need, the nurturing relationships that should develop between educators and students have less chance to form, and staffing shortages continue to grow.

Currently in Maryland, class size is an illegal subject of bargaining, meaning that educators are forbidden from bringing it up at the negotiating table. Yet the poll found that making class size bargainable could have a significant impact on educator retention and working conditions—as well as increased individual attention for students.

“The ability to negotiate on class size, along with improving caseloads and staffing levels through the implementation of the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, can help us get a grip on unsustainable workloads and make sure our days center on what matters most: getting every student the individual attention they deserve,” said MSEA President Cheryl Bost. “We urge the General Assembly to pass statewide legislation allowing class size to be a subject of bargaining in local contract negotiations.” HB 890, currently under consideration by the General Assembly, would make class size no longer an illegal subject of bargaining.

At MSEA’s Virtual Gubernatorial Candidates Education forum on January 26, every candidate participating stated their support for making class sizes a legal subject of bargaining. These candidates included Rushern Baker, Jon Baron, Peter Franchot, Doug Gansler, Ashwani Jain, John King, Wes Moore, Laura Neuman, and Tom Perez.

Class size is currently a legal topic of bargaining in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Maryland is one of only nine states where class size is an illegal subject of bargaining, along with Alaska, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.

The poll was conducted online by the National Education Association on behalf of MSEA. The survey of 4,746 public school employees—teachers, education support professionals, and administrators— who are members of MSEA was conducted January 14-24, 2022. The survey results carry a margin of error of +/- 1.39 percentage points.