In Most States, Teachers Aren’t Guaranteed Breaks

By Erika Hanson | 4 weeks ago

teacher breaks

Teachers are under a lot of pressure this year. For one, there is the growing public outcry that teachers are the villains, and indoctrinating young children amid a year of viral exposures and landmark sex crime charges being reported. And then there are the burgeoning amount of educators reporting burnout, as more studies suggest that the majority of teachers are unhappy with their jobs. Adding to that list now is a sense of urgency for lawmakers to enact teacher break laws, as most states don’t guarantee any sort of break for students’ educators. 

EdWeek reports that only 23 states in the nation have laws that protect duty-free teacher breaks. Duty-free breaks allow employees to take entirely work-free time off during their workday, permitting them time to be unencumbered by work obligations, and allowing them to leave the place of work if they please during that time. Because of this, many teachers throughout the U.S. say that they often go without bathroom breaks. 

But as more states realize that the alleged teacher shortage is becoming a real crisis in public education, some states have enacted new measures to entice and retain educators. South Carolina recently passed a teacher break law in hopes to curb the issue. Joining in with the other states that ensure duty-free teacher breaks, Gov. Henry McMaster signed the bill into law on May 16th. However, it only applies to elementary and special education teachers, permitting them access to a 30-minute break each day. 

Such legislation typically only covers teacher breaks at the elementary level. Lawmakers in South Carolina cited their reason for specifying this level, stating that they are the most likely to forfeit any allotted break time as they have children inside their classrooms for longer periods of time throughout the school day. Now, The Palmetto State is hopeful this new law can attract and retain more educators.

The situation is truly grim in the southern state in regards to teacher vacancies. At the beginning of this school year, the Center for Education and Recruitment Retention and Advancement (CERRA) reported that there were more than 1,000 teacher vacancies in the state. By the end of the school year, the matter has only gotten worse. Reports now suggest that there are over 3,400 shortages in the system. Experts hope ensuring teacher breaks will help, but some say it’s not enough.

Teacher breaks are one possible factor leading to the mass exodus, but there are other elements at play. Burnout is definitely one of them. Much of this came at the onset of the pandemic. Teachers, who were already reporting working long hours at school and at home, were often given little to no instruction as to how to handle things as schools shuttered their doors. They were frequently left to come up with lesson plans at home on their own. Then, when schools began reopening, many were required to juggle both online remote classes all while having some of their children back in the classroom. This added stress likely caused many to quit the profession altogether. 

teacher breaks

Considering labor laws, it is sad to think that it is necessary for lawmakers to ensure teacher breaks through new legislation. But alas, it is something more and more lawmakers are considering, in wake of the teacher shortage crisis. At a time when massive learning loss is being reported across the board, a lack of teachers in classrooms will only lead to more declines in public education.