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Rise in Teacher Burnout

Nearly 2,000 teachers have left New York City’s public schools during the pandemic

NYC Mayor’s Office
Nearly 2,000 teachers have left New York City’s public schools during the pandemic, according to a new report from the state comptroller.
The report’s release follows nearly two years of pandemic wherein teachers and school staff have reported extensive burnout due to disruptions and challenges in classroom instruction. It said the city’s education department lost 1,992 teachers between June 2020 and November 2021 –  a 2.5% decrease – with 77,160 teachers on the education department’s payroll last fall. The number of paraprofessionals and teaching assistants plummeted even more significantly —  by 15%, a loss of 3,851 employees. 
In interviews, many educators said that may be the tip of the iceberg: They expect to see more colleagues exit the field soon. Some said they are seriously contemplating leaving themselves. 
“I really love teaching, but I have definitely considered leaving the city,” said Jessica Cohen, a science teacher at Francis Lewis High School in Queens. 

A teacher leads a virtual class at One World Middle School at Edenwald in the Bronx, October 2020


The New York City data appears to reflect a nationwide trend: a recent poll of teachers found more than half now expect to leave the profession earlier than planned and the Bureau of Labor of Statistics reported more than 500,000 have already left.


The decline in teachers comes as public school enrollment is also shrinking. But even with enrollment down, administrators have been scrambling to cover classes, either to accommodate social distancing, cover instructors who left because of the vaccine mandate, or fill in when teachers get sick, as many did during the omicron surge. 

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Sarah Casasnovas, a spokesperson for the city’s education department, said there was a “temporary decline in the number of teachers” after the city’s vaccine mandate went into effect last fall, but approximately 5,600 new teachers were hired for the 2021-2 academic year. There are 27,000 substitute teachers “on hand,” she added. 


“We’re grateful to our incredible educators who go above and beyond for New York City students each day, and we’re proud that our teacher retention rate remains high,” Casasnovas said. 
According to the city’s teacher’s union, the United Federation of Teachers, the school system had to replace more than 5,000 teachers every year even before COVID-19. 


“Keeping a stable pedagogical workforce in the schools has been a constant challenge for the city’s Department of Education,” union spokesperson Alison Gendar said. “The long-term effects of the pandemic are going to make this problem even more difficult to solve.”


Teachers throughout the city have reported tremendous burnout – after an unprecedented pivot to remote learning in March 2020, followed by a combination of virtual and hybrid learning last year, and the challenges of returning to schools this fall. 

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