For former Austin, Texas, public school teacher Malorie Weber, becoming an educator had been her dream since high school — a dream that only came to fruition two years ago.
But by her second year of teaching, Weber decided to leave the profession altogether, sharing her impassioned resignation letter publicly.
“The joy of why I got into this profession has been shattered,” she wrote in an open letter. “While I adore my students and I adore teaching, the current state of AISD [Austin Independent School District] and the public school system has made my job impossible.”
After earning her teaching degree, Weber was hired to teach 6th grade English full-time at Parades Middle School for the 2017 to 2018 school year. Weber says she initially thrived at Parades, teaching only smaller pre-AP classes where she was “sheltered” from some of the other difficulties her colleagues were facing. At the end of her first year in teaching, Weber was honored by the AISD as a “teacher of promise,” an award given to first year teachers with great potential.
But, things quickly changed for the 32-year-old teacher.
“The second year, we lose funding. We lose more teachers. We only have two English teachers in the 6th grade. Our class sizes blew up,” Weber tells Yahoo Lifestyle, adding that her biggest class had 35 students. Meanwhile, other teachers at Parades Middle School had as many as 38.
The school district’s board of trustees approved a budget in June 2018 that would reallocate $670 million, more than half of local property tax revenue within the district, to poorer school districts in a state program called “recapture,” which is better known as the “Robin Hood system,” according to Austin’s NPR affiliate KUT.
For the 2018 to 2019 academic year, Weber continued teaching pre-AP classes, as well as inclusion courses, or classes that included special education students. While Weber says that special education students are legally entitled to have two teachers in the classroom, she says that her support personnel was getting pulled from her classes daily.
“I feel like my job as a teacher is to educate the kids and create a safe space for them to grow,” Weber tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “The fact that our class sizes were so big and the special education support was getting pulled, I felt that I was unable to meet the needs of the kids.”
As the workload and the stress began to pile up, Weber began to consider leaving the profession she loved because of the toll it was taking on her own mental health.
Tired of being underpaid, overworked, and unsupported, particularly with her special education students, Weber decided she was done being part of the problem. Instead, she felt “the best decision was for me to fight.”
Before the end of the school year, Weber sent her resignation letter to AISD superintendent Paul Cruz, and the school board on May 14.
“Enormous class sizes and a ridiculous teacher workload coupled with being underpaid and under-appreciated have discouraged and demoralized me,” Weber wrote in her letter, adding that she felt guilty for not having enough “space and time to truly know and care for my students.”
“Everyone is losing in our system. Our kids our losing. Our teachers are losing,” Weber wrote. “I am unsure if I can continue to be a contributing part of a system that is so broken.”
At the end of her letter, Weber called for the AISD superintendent and school board members to take action.
“These issues cannot be solved by one teacher or one principal, and if people in power are not doing everything IN their power to evoke change, they’re only choosing to be part of the problem.”
While Weber put the onus on AISD leaders to make a chance, in a statement obtained by Yahoo, AISD attributed the cause of the issues she raised to the State of Texas’ school finance system.
“It is unfortunate to hear of Ms. Weber’s resignation. It is apparent she is very passionate about teaching and cares deeply about her students,” AISD’s chief human capital officer, Dr. Fernando Medina, wrote in a statement.
“The growing liability of ‘Robin Hood’ is siphoning more and more local Austin property taxes, which has resulted in severe budgetary shortfalls for AISD... This year we are hopeful that the State Legislature will revise the school finance system to help alleviate the district’s projected deficit.”
With the help of Education Austin, the local teacher’s union, Weber plans to share her experience with the Austin community by reading her resignation letter aloud at the next AISD school board meeting.
“If you have these ‘teachers of promise,’ what is it that you’re promising those teachers? Are you promising a respectful profession? Are you promising a pay that can keep them in the job or are you promising that this is going to be a revolving door and they’ll be out in five years?” Ken Zarifis, the Austin Education president, tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
According to Zarifis, Malorie isn’t alone in leaving education. Over the course of five years, Austin has had a 60 to 70 percent turnover rate for teachers, he said.
While Malorie has decided not to teach, she still hopes to be a voice and advocate for both educators and students.
“It’s more than just a teacher or student issue—it’s a community issue. These are not just our kids, it’s the future,” Weber tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I wanted to be a voice for a lot of people that felt that they couldn’t speak out.”
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