SALT LAKE CITY — The House Education Committee on Wednesday gave unanimous support Wednesday to legislation that calls on the State School Board to develop a statewide survey to ask teachers why they're leaving the profession.
HB130, sponsored by Rep. Carol Spackman Moss, D-Holladay, calls on the Utah State Board of Education to create a "model exit survey" that could be administered by school districts and charter school board officials to determine why a teacher is ending employment.
"The purpose for this bill, I think it's really important. We all know there is a teacher shortage. We've had it for a number of years. Really, it is a crisis," said Moss, who taught school for 33 years before she was elected to the Legislature.
Anecdotally, some blame high stress, low pay and inadequate support personnel as reasons for leaving the profession, she said.
"We haven't had any definitive surveys that tell us exactly what we need to know to make the changes necessary" to attract more people to teaching and retain experienced teachers in the classroom.
"Until we have actual data, I don't think we're going to be able to create the best policies to try to make changes and improve it," Moss said. The bill also calls for a report of the survey to the State School Board.
State Superintendent of Public Instruction Sydnee Dickson said there has been conjecture about why teachers step away from the profession, "but we really don't know. There's a lot of reasons people leave."
While many people point simply to salaries, "that's not been our experience and national data doesn't play that out," Dickson said.
Survey data would inform a larger discussion about how best to attract and retain teachers, she said.
"Then we have to stop and look at what is our role, what is the Legislature's role, what is the board's role and what is the local role?" Dickson said.
Rita Heagren, vice president for political action for American Federation of Teachers-Utah, urged the committee to endorse HB130.
"You can’t solve a problem until it has been identified," she said.
Sara Jones, director of government relations for the Utah Education Association, also spoke in support of the bill.
"We really appreciate Rep. Moss addressing an issue that we know for years has become critical, the teacher shortage. What we need is accurate data so you as state leaders can make policy decisions based on accurate data," Jones said.