KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City-area teacher advocates say a concerning number of educators are closing one book and starting a new chapter outside of the classroom.

Retirements and those resigning for other reasons have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic.

And it’s not just happening here or there. It’s happening all across the Kansas City area at many of the biggest school districts.

Samara Crawford Herrera, executive director of the Kansas City Action Fund, said teachers leaving the classroom is the single biggest threat to public education.

“We’re losing them at an alarming rate,” Crawford Herrera said. “Before we can do anything around advancing public education, we’ve got to be able to recruit and retain wonderful educators in this system.”

But what do you do when those in charge of gearing up the future generations say goodbye to the classroom?

“It’s the most pressing crisis of the day in public education,” Crawford Herrera said. “When you think who students spend their time with, it’s with their teacher, right?”

Six of the 11 largest KC-area school districts based off of student population are losing teachers. However, FOX4 didn’t hear back from four of the other districts on that list. Independence School District is the only one seeing fewer teacher departures compared to last year.

Among the districts with the highest rate of teacher departures, Kansas City Public Schools has seen a 12% increase from last year while Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools sits at 15-20% compared to last school year.

The Lawrence Journal World reports Lawrence Schools have a nearly 40% jump in departures compared to the last school year with over 140 staff leaving the district.

Here’s a breakdown of the number of teachers leaving some of the largest districts so far this year:

  • Olathe Public Schools: 250
  • Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools: 270
  • Blue Valley School District: 250
  • North Kansas City School District: 168
  • Kansas City Public Schools: 130
  • Independence School District: 143
  • Lawrence: 141

“Nothing is more important than the person standing in front of students, guiding them through the day helping to encourage them helping to build their social and emotional skills,” Crawford-Herrera said.

Experts say a lot of factors are at play here, including more outside control on curriculum and poor pay. But above all else, advocates said teachers are missing one thing they need most.

“The one thing that keeps our educators in the education profession is the support form the administration, the support from parents, the support from the community,” said Sherri Schwanz, president of the Kansas NEA.

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