May 26, 2022 - News

More than 500 teachers resigning from Des Moines metro schools

Illustration of a chalkboard with a waving hand emoji drawn on it.
Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

An uptick of Des Moines metro teachers are resigning this summer, marking a troubling end to a year of exceptional challenges for school staff.

Why it matters: Some metro districts — which have already been struggling with staff shortages — are losing up to 15% of teachers once their contracts end this school year.

  • Several are anticipating seeing the highest number of resignations in the last five years.

Zoom in: Nick Covington, a social studies teacher at Ankeny High School, handed in his resignation on Feb. 25. He believes the rise in resignations are due to two main drivers:

  • Today's political battles have bled into classrooms, deteriorating teacher morale.
  • At the same time, there are more opportunities than ever for teachers to find more flexible jobs where they can negotiate better salaries.

Covington said he started considering an exit after facing condemnation from parents and district officials for his curriculum last year.

  • In his AP European History class, he teaches about white nationalism. For years, he's tied in Dylann Roof and the 2017 Charlottesville march to show the American experience. But last year, he faced major backlash, including parents calling for his resignation.
  • "With culture war du jour, I just think there's just too much going on," Covington told Axios. "Teachers are kind of tired of being on the front lines of all of that."

By the numbers: Des Moines Public Schools, the largest district in the state, is anticipating 293 teacher resignations this summer, its highest in the last five school years.

  • In total, about 11.4% of DMPS teachers (310) are resigning or retiring this summer.

Waukee has a total of 60 teachers leaving this year, also its highest number in the last five years. Forty-five of those teachers are resigning.

Ankeny has 79 teachers leaving, up from 50 from last year. Out of those, 62 are resigning.

Johnston has 57 teachers leaving, in comparison to 46 from last year. Out of those, 48 are resigning.

Urbandale has about 55 teachers, 15% of its staff, leaving this year. Last year, about 8% left.

Of note: West Des Moines school officials did not have their staffing data at the time of Axios' request.

Between the lines: While resignations were up this year, most districts had lower retirements in comparison to 2020-21, when a surge of older teachers left the field.

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