The current state of teachers’ salaries is a major challenge for education, as they earn far less than the living wages of families in most areas. As a result, nearly one-fifth of the teaching force leaves the profession each year. Many are forced to work second jobs to supplement their income. In addition, salaries don’t reflect the demands placed on teachers. Kate Dias, a high school math and statistics teacher in Manchester, Connecticut, makes just $92,000 a year.
Teachers’ salaries vary widely by state, and even within states, too. In the 2016-2017-school year, the average full-time teacher in Mississippi made $42,925, while educators in New York earned $78,637. Despite the wide disparity in salaries, many educators rely on their own money to purchase classroom supplies.
According to the OECD, salaries for teachers in the US are lower than they were twenty years ago. In fact, the real value of teachers’ salaries has declined in more than a third of states since 2000. The recession pushed many states to freeze or reduce their teacher salaries, but salaries are beginning to rise again. Despite the improvement in salaries, US teachers are still paid 22% less than their counterparts with similar education and experience.
Some states have responded to the lack of teacher pay by slashing their education budgets. As a result, teacher pay hikes have been shelved in states like Georgia and Tennessee. The governor of Hawaii, meanwhile, has proposed a 20-percent cut for teachers. This could severely harm teachers’ pension systems and reduce the teaching profession to near-subsistence status for many years.
The current lack of funding for education has led to many teachers to organize and strike. Protests have been held in several states. The “RedforEd” movement has captured the attention of many school employees who are tired of living paycheck to paycheck and working two or three jobs. Many are suffering from burnout, stress, and work anxiety. Some have even taken on jobs like pet sitting or Amazon customer service representatives to make ends meet.
Although these problems are complicated, it’s clear that higher salaries for teachers can significantly reduce teacher turnover. This issue has become a top priority for many states, especially those with higher wages. However, raising teacher salaries isn’t easy and it takes many facets to address the issue.
A recent report by the Economic Policy Institute indicates that teacher salaries have not kept pace with the cost of living, inflation rates, and wages in other fields. In fact, teacher pay has fallen more than 13% over the past three decades. As a result, salaries for teachers are below those of other workers with similar education and experience.
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