Teachers — going, going, gone. But where are the replacements?

Aug 7, 2023, 6:00 PM | Updated: Aug 13, 2023, 7:55 pm

a classroom...

What has been learned about COVID-19 and school closures three years later. Photo credit: Getty Images

SALT LAKE  CITY — For every two teachers that leave the classroom, there is now only one replacement educator. 

About 44% of U.S. teachers leave within the first five years on the job, according to For Utah, that number may be even higher.

“Within the first five years, 45 to 50% of our educators are leaving the profession,” said  Renee Pinkney, president of the Utah Education Association.

Jason Brown, vice president of Envision Utah, joins KSL NewsRadio’s Dave Noriega and Leah Murray, who is also host of KSL@Night to discuss why Utah teachers are leaving and how to keep them in the classroom.

Brown said the Utah State Board of Education conducts exit surveys every year to ask teachers why they are leaving the profession. 

“Among the top reasons is always stress and burnout and emotional exhaustion,” he said.

Another reason educators are leaving their jobs, Brown said, is compensation. 

“If we want these careers and professions to be esteemed, we need to compensate them in a way that shows that they’re esteemed,” Brown said.


Student mental health issues also contribute to teacher burnout, he said.

“There’s not the infrastructure of support within our schools to deal with that. And so teachers have the weight of students’ problems being put on them. It gets hard and it gets emotionally exhausting and it leads to a lot of burnout,” Brown said.

Leah said she hadn’t realized before how insidious the mission creep of public school teaching can be.

“It’s like I came here to be a math teacher and now I’m like a therapist.”

Teachers not being replaced

Every year about 3,000 teachers leave the classroom, according to Envision Utah. Some retire, some move to administration, some leave for family or other reasons. But only about 1,500 new teachers graduate college with a degree in education.

“We’re falling short year after year in terms of getting the teachers, the well-trained teachers that we need into the classroom,” Brown said.

Lack of teaching degrees has consequences

Only about 59% of new teachers have teaching degrees, as documented by Envision Utah. Of course, this does not necessarily mean they’re bad teachers, but they’re entering the classroom with less experience and less training. They require more mentorship and support. They tend to leave the teaching profession at much higher rates, and their students perform worse on standardized tests on average than students of teachers who have education degrees.

Leah asked if there was one event or cause that Brown could cite that triggered the exodus of teachers leaving their profession within five years.

“Is there some variable you can point to? Is it COVID? (Or), is it something else?”

He said the expectation was teachers would leave during COVID.

“We surprisingly didn’t see as many teachers leaving the profession during or right after COVID as we expected,” Brown said. “In fact, a lot of people seem like they didn’t want to leave on the COVID note. And so maybe delayed their retirement a little bit.

“But we have — for at least more than a decade of the data that I’m most familiar with — we have seen this 40 to 50% of teachers leaving the profession every year and not graduating quite as many teachers as leave the profession,” he said.

Related reading:

Is there still a teacher shortage in Utah?

Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Education + Schools

Students walk at the University of Utah...

Amanda Dickson

Dickson: Who goes to summer school?

KSL NewsRadio host Amanda Dickson reflects on her first week of teaching summer classes at the University of Utah.

2 days ago

Disagree better toolkit...

Don Brinkerhoff

Local professors create ‘Disagree Better’ toolkit for parents

Professors created "Disagree Better" toolkit which includes free online courses to help parents teach kids ways to handle disagreements.

2 days ago

Samantha Corey poses with several members of the American Fork High School football team....

Kyle Remund

Deceased student will be honored at American Fork High School graduation following outcry

Alpine School District has announced that Samantha Corey, a student whose life was lost to cancer, will now be recognized at the graduation ceremony for American Fork High School.

2 days ago

A fly fisherman casts near snow banks in Big Cottonwood Creek in Big Cottonwood Canyon....

Heather Peterson

Restoring biodiversity to wetlands sites in Salt Lake

Along with the U of U and others, Salt Lake City Public Lands hopes to return biodiversity to the wetlands of the Jordan River watershed.

3 days ago

31 students received their associate's degrees Monday from SLCC's Prison Education Program....

Kyle Remund

Record number of inmates earn degrees through SLCC program

A record number of inmates at the Utah State Correctional Facility received their degree from Salt Lake Community College's Prison Education Program this year.

3 days ago

Image of a crosswalk sign. A crossing guard in Sandy, Utah, is retiring, after helping students cro...

Heather Peterson

Sandy crossing guard retiring after more than 30 years

Janice Parker found her passion while her child attended Park Lane Elementary. She would become Sandy Police's first-ever crossing guard supervisor.

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

a doctor putting her hand on the chest of her patient...

Intermountain Health

Intermountain nurse-midwives launch new gynecology access clinic

An access clinic launched by Intermountain nurse-midwives provides women with comprehensive gynecology care.

Young couple hugging while a realtor in a suit hands them keys in a new home...

Utah Association of Realtors

Buying a home this spring? Avoid these 5 costly pitfalls

By avoiding these pitfalls when buying a home this spring, you can ensure your investment will be long-lasting and secure.

a person dressed up as a nordic viking in a dragon boat resembling the bear lake monster...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

The Legend of the Bear Lake Monster

The Bear Lake monster has captivated people in the region for centuries, with tales that range from the believable to the bizarre.


Live Nation Concerts

All the artists coming to Utah First Credit Union Amphitheatre (formerly USANA Amp) this summer

Summer concerts are more than just entertainment; they’re a celebration of life, love, and connection.

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

Teachers — going, going, gone. But where are the replacements?