The decision to choose to teach as a profession is typically derived from many factors. An article published in The Guardian listed the top reasons people start teaching. The top two (and ahead of all others by a fair majority) were: “Enjoy working with children and young people” and “Want to make a difference.” Other reasons listed by 858 respondents included, “love of my subject”, “having longer holidays,” and “family members work in education.” Of the 12 listed options, none of them included compensation. (I am left to assume that the pay response is included in the “Other” category with 6.7%.) Education Week also published an article (2015) with a survey concluding the top 2 reasons individuals chose the teaching profession. The top 2 reasons were “thought they would be good at it” and “making a difference in pupils’ lives.” (Ed Week)
Teachers teach because of what the job is, not what it pays.
Teaching is often referred to as a noble profession. This solely due to the fact that “compensation” is not a deciding factor for teachers. Teachers teach because of what the job is, not what it pays. Never-the-less, a rising issue in our nation is the abundant lack of resources allocated to providing teachers a fair compensation correlated to the time and effort each one puts forth.
Even though most people, if not all, choose to teach because of the actual work, current pay levels make it difficult for teachers to flourish economically. Matt Damon was extremely vocal on the issue seven years. When asked about his mother, who is a teacher, his response was, “Teachers want to teach, why else would they take a sh*tty salary?!” (YouTube) That video went viral for a short time, but like all other efforts to raise awareness on the issue, it fell on deaf ears.
National Attention Growing
Recent events have drastically brought attention to national levels. Earlier this year, in Arizona, 50,000 teachers marched on the capital — part of a week-long strike. Ultimately their efforts resulted in a legislative 20% pay raise for teachers. (Pheonix New Times)
Similar efforts in Oklahoma and West Virginia provided raises of $6,000 and $2,000 respectively (NY Times)
Most recently, perhaps in an effort to avoid a state-wide strike, Governor Jon Bel Edwards announced a $1,000 raise for all teachers in Louisiana. (NOLA) TIME magazine and other publications have certainly entered into the conversation in full force. The hope of such efforts is to continue pressing legislators to look at the compensation of teachers across the nation.
You would be hard pressed to find someone against paying teachers more but the solution doesn’t seem to be clear, at this point, or where the dollars are to do it.
All the noise around this issue leads me to contemplate what does a teacher actually make. And, for those looking to enter the profession, to better understand what your compensation would be.
Though we do want teachers to earn even more, districts are beginning to put forth competitive compensation packages for new teachers. Over the next few weeks, we will pull back the curtain on some school districts and look at their benefits packages. What is the base salary? What available stipends exists? How many days is the school year? And, what does the school system contribute to health care and retirement?
Bookmark our blog as we take a deeper look into teachers’ pay.