Think back to school, and imagine one teacher; the one teacher who inspired you to be you. The teacher who gave you the most priceless gift of all: The gift of learning. Teachers have a big impact in educating and preparing future members of a civilized society. Would it surprise you to hear that according to a McKinsey and Company study called “Closing the Talent Gap”, after 25 years, a teacher, earning $67,000, will still be paid less than a skycapper, a person who moves luggage around, at an airport (qtd Strauss 4)? Considering that the amount of education necessary to become a teacher is greater than that required to become a skycapper, should our teachers be earning more? In fact, the average salary of a teacher is between $43,000 and $48,000 but can go lower than $40,000 depending on the experience the teacher has (10). Given the impact of teachers on society, our nation’s teachers are grossly underpaid. Paying teachers more is both the fair thing to do and is beneficial to our education system. All teachers should be paid more than the current national average because they have a challenging job, their current salaries are insufficient, and a higher salary would lead to a better quality of education.
In our country, teachers perform a challenging job and thus deserve to be compensated. Teachers put a sizeable amount of time into their work. According to the National Education Association, teachers work 50 hours a week during school year and, contrary to popular belief, work in the summer (NEA,7). Compare that to the average American coming in at 34.4 hours a week (Isidor, Luhby,9) and the difference is evident. Teachers are working much more than the average American. Those 50 hours per week do not even tell half of the story. Teachers also have to face many challenges in performing the job. Linda Darling-Hammond, Professor of Education at Stanford Graduate School of Education, said that teachers have to face many challenges including low pay, growing class sizes, teacher-bashing from politicians, accountability mandates from No Child Left Behind, layoffs, having to compensate for poverty in school, and bureaucracy that eliminates the fun of being a teacher (qtd Strauss 8). These challenges can deter potential candidates. Mr. Stevenson, a US history and nonfiction writing teacher, also spoke about a challenge in teaching. He said: “ Society has greatly undervalued teachers. Teaching is being treated as a business which must turn profits, i.e, successful students. While manufacturers can choose which parts they want to use, teachers cannot choose their students.” (6) Teachers are undervalued in society. After going through all of these challenges, they are still expected to produce results with every group of children. Teachers still manage to adapt to and control every situation. Most importantly, they inspire children to learn and provide them with an unforgettable learning experience. Our educators are invaluable to society, it is time we started treating them like so.
Despite how challenging teaching is, the current teacher salary is still insufficient. Many teachers take second jobs and must take other measures. According to Ninive Calgari, a teacher and activist, “Most teachers pay for their own graduate school and ongoing professional training, and over 92 percent buy supplies for their students out of their own pockets. But over the past few years, we’ve seen over 60 percent of teachers working second jobs, dining with their children at food banks, and even selling their blood to make ends meet.” (qtd Strauss 4) No teacher should have to make these tough decisions just to survive. They still have to pay off student loans and support their family with so little pay. The teachers that inspire us, should be treated with respect, not apathy. Critics may say that the budget of public schools is stretched too thin, this is not true. According to the same Mckinsey and Company study mentioned earlier, if salaries had grown proportionally to classroom spending, the current teacher’s salary would be nearly $120,000 (qtd Strauss 4). The problem is not the budget itself but the distribution of the budget. If the government re-allocated the budget, say taking from our 800 billion dollar defense budget, increasing teachers pay could certainly be feasible. Another study performed by Sylvia Allegretto and Lawrence Mishel, two nationally recognized economists, found that in 2015 the weekly wages of a teacher were 17% lower than comparable college educated professionals (qtd Strauss 2). The situation has not changed from 2015. Teachers are clearly getting underpaid comparative to professions with similar amounts of education. Mckinsey and Company in their study used the comparison of lawyer to teacher to illustrate this gap. They said that in 1970 the difference in salary of a lawyer entering a prominent law firm in New York City and a teacher was only $2000. Today, that difference is $115,000 adjusted for inflation (qtd Strauss 4). The salary of a teacher has not changed for over 25 years. While the challenges of teaching have grown, pay has not. Teachers deserve to be rewarded for all of the time and effort they have to put into their job. Some may say the job security, pension, and healthcare benefits are worth the lower pay. What use is job security if you are not earning enough to support your family? What good are healthcare benefits and pensions if you do not have money now? The current teacher’s pay is dismal. Could you imagine your favorite teacher, getting paid less than a plumber?
In addition to making a teacher’s salary sustainable, a higher salary will lead to a better education for all. In a study performed by international economists Peter Dolton and Oscar Marcanero-Gutierrez, collected data from the OECD (Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development) and many other education organizations and found that better pay leads to better teacher quality which leads to better student performance (qtd Walker 3). This means that schools that pay teachers more are likely to have increased student performance, the ultimate goal of our education system. The Stanford Center for Education Policy Analysis found that increasing salary could attract new better-qualified applicants to urban school districts thus increasing the overall quality of education in those districts (Hough 5). Poorer districts can benefit from paying teachers more. In order to achieve this, the government must allocate more of its budget,by taking just a fraction of our defense budget, to support poorer districts. Doing this will benefit the students, teachers, and the community. Naysayers may say that increasing the salary has not been tested and proven in the US, they are wrong. A charter school was started called The Equity Project, where teachers were paid as much as $125,000. A study was performed, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. They found that after increasing the salary of the teachers, the eighth-graders gained more than a year in math and half a year in reading compared with schools of similar demographics (qtd Brody 1). They did this at no financial cost; class sizes were increased from 27 to 31, there were not as many fringe benefits (extra benefits supplementing the salary), and fewer administrators were hired. The method of increasing salary has been proven to work in the US. We want more results from our educations system, increasing the salary of teachers has been proven to do so.
Teachers in the United States should be paid more because they have a challenging job, their current salaries are insufficient, and a higher salary would lead to a better quality of education. Think about your children or your grandchildren. How will their education be if the teaching profession lacks qualified candidates? Will he or she ever gain the love of learning that was instilled in you by your teacher? Perhaps only when our teachers are finally compensated, will our education system truly flourish, and future generations will have the joy of learning instilled in them by that one special teacher.
- Brody, Leslie. “Charter School Boasts Big Pay and Big Results.” The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company, 24 Oct. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017
- Strauss, Valerie. “Think Teachers Aren’t Paid Enough? It’s Worse than You Think.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 16 Aug. 2016. Web. 19 July 2017.
- Walker, Tim. “International Study Links Higher Teacher Pay and Teacher Quality.” NEA Today. N.p., 20 Nov. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017.
- Strauss, Valerie. “Why Teachers’ Salaries Should Be Doubled — Now.” The Washington Post. WP Company, 25 Mar. 2014. Web. 19 July 2017.
- Hough, Heather J. “Salary Incentives and Teacher Quality: The Effect of a District-level Salary Increase on Teacher Recruitment.” Center for Education Policy Analysis. Stanford University, 2012. Web. 19 July 2017.
- Stevenson, Michael, Personal interview, 18 July, 2017
- “Myths and Facts about Educator Pay.” NEA. National Education Association, n.d. Web. 19 July 2017
- Strauss, Valerie. “How Hard Is Teaching?” The Washington Post. WP Company, 27 Dec. 2013. Web. 20 July 2017.
- Isidore, Chris, and Tami Luhby. “Turns out Americans Work Really Hard…but Some Want to Work Harder.” CNNMoney. Cable News Network, 9 July 2015. Web. 21 July 2017
- “Average Salary for All K-12 Teachers.” Teacher Salary – Average Teacher Salaries | PayScale. N.p., 2017. Web. 21 July 2017.