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Crucial Job, Dismal Pay – Why Teacher’s Salaries Can’t Be Improved

I am befuddled whenever I hear about what teachers are paid and the crisis in education hitting this country. These individuals are, in many cases, called to a role that most of us can’t even imagine undertaking every day. Teachers spend their day in classrooms with children for up to eight hours a day. Take that in and try to think about if this was a job you could do. If you aren’t sure, search them on social media to see the reasons teachers are leaving the profession in hordes. The pay is dismal, and the workload one of the most daunting you can imagine, the requests on them get more difficult year over year, and you have seen the horror stories about children’s actions against teachers. How can it be that we choose to pay the people having one of the greatest impacts on future generations some of the lowest salaries in the professional fields?

Does this country understand that from the earliest of ages, our teachers spend more time with our children than most parents do? They make sure they are fed in the morning, get them lunch, ensure it is safe to play outside and teach the skills they will need to survive and thrive in the world. Think back to your childhood – who was your favorite teacher? Which teacher did you know not to cross? What teacher inspired you to do something you would never have done otherwise? Which teacher maybe recognized when you were in trouble, and got you help?

Teachers are the first line of defense for child abuse, neglect, mental health issues, and even identifying when a child is gifted. They help motivate, keep safe, and, most importantly, teach reading, math, science, love for the arts, music, and so many other vital skills that will form a mind for the rest of their life. CEOs, nurses, pilots, dentists, computer science majors, and more have all moved to their high-paying jobs because of a foundation laid by teachers early on in their lives. In the age of inflation teachers’ salaries are the lowest of most professional roles, requiring an education beyond high school.

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Yes, we ask that teachers attend college – anyone look at what is going to set someone back? Then, they must have some continuing education as different methodologies and other changes are made. They need to shepherd an entire group of kids through placement exams to move forward in their schooling, deal with things like school shootings preparedness (and some live through this kind of trauma), and continue to be beacons of hope for generations of kids. Due to more teachers leaving the profession and even fewer joining it to start with these days, education in this country is in crisis.

So, riddle me this – why is the conversation about what a teacher’s salary should be constantly in debate? In 2020-2021, the average starting pay was $41,770., Sure, states like New York and California may look more on paper, but have you taken a look at the cost of living in those states? It is so bad; most know they will never afford a house in these states. Additionally, unlike many jobs with year-end reviews and raises should the company do good, many teachers can go years without a substantial raise from early salary to mid career. Or if they do get raises, they are minimal and highly contested via school boards, public walkouts, and other egregious conversations that should never happen.

Teachers take jobs during the summer, buy supplies from their own pockets in some cases, and continue to try and do what is best for the children of this country. We need to do better and figure out a way to pay them for the contribution they make. A living fair wage that doesn’t make them have side hustles and summer jobs simply to survive. If we don’t do better, the mass exodus of teachers happening across this country will continue – what then? Parents are now having to find a way to educate their own children, while working themselves. Online options which don’t have the same impact as in person are becoming the standard. We don’t know yet fully the impact that education’s current crisis will have on the children of this generation. By the time the full weight of our bad choices in not paying teachers appropriately is seen, it won’t be reversible.

Photos Courtesy MidJourney

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