Dear future teachers, be warned…

Teachers across the nation are waging a war against unfair salaries, and it is about time.

Noah Zentz, Staff Writer

     A widespread call for teacher pay raises has been on the rise in Indiana. As educators and advocates for a teacher compensation raise are taking it to Indiana’s political leaders to solve the issue, this question arises— is Indiana doing enough to meet the call for reform, or is reform even necessary in the first place?

     According to The National Education Association (NEA) Rankings and Estimates, in the past decade the average salary for a classroom teacher has decreased by 3% when accounting for inflation. This may not seem like a lot, but when compared to other similar professionals, the wage gap is a bigger deal than you might think. The Economic Policy Institute reports that nationwide teachers are earning 19% less than professionals with similar education and skills. Teachers are not being paid enough for the education they’ve received and the work they’re doing. Not only that, but the teaching penalty— the percent by which public school teachers are paid less than comparable workers— has increased by 17% in the past two decades. Why are professionals, with one of the most important job society has, earning so much less than similarly educated people? Shouldn’t school districts be paying a professional salary to the professional teachers they have, who have worked for advanced degrees and gone through a substantial amount of coursework and practice?

     Teaching, at its core, is for the edification of the future working class and those who will be running America. What’s more, educators don’t help students just succeed in acing a standardized test or a term paper, nor do they just help in students pursuing their future careers by developing their technical skills. Students’ lives are shaped in almost every aspect due to an educator’s influence.

     Life lessons don’t appear from thin air, nor should they be thought to only come from your parents. Teachers provide lessons that go further than the history book. Inspiration to work harder and pursue a goal, guidance in critical life decisions, and simple education in a subject are just three reasons why teachers change lives. From a well-educated teacher comes a well-educated, better-prepared student equipped with skills such as good work ethic, perseverance, and problem-solving. They provide the necessary lessons and skills that will undoubtedly affect every future American adult to join the working class.

     Yet, even with such a significance, they get paid next to nothing.

     Not only are teachers suffering, but students are as well. Especially in Indiana, the ability to fill a classroom position is becoming increasingly harder as the war for higher compensation wages on and as teachers begin to leave school districts because of too low of salary. And what is left are students without educators, or students with very poor ones. Either option is not a good one.

     According to the National Education Association, the Indiana average starting teacher salary only two years ago was about $35,000. The national average was about $38,000. People coming out of college with bachelor and master degrees in education, with hours upon hours of coursework and preparation, in hopes of being rewarded for their hard work instead faced the same salary, if not less, of a managerial position at McDonald’s. Is that how much we value our educators? (No offense, McDonald’s…)

     The time is now for a radical change in teacher salaries. For too long have we seen good, honest working teachers simply stop educating because they can’t live their lives or support their family on it. The problem is obvious, the solution is trickier, but it is a crisis America is facing and not making a big enough deal out of.

     Elected officials must do more. Teacher pay is a priority yet to be recognized, and action must be taken. Until then, our own role models, our future kids’ role models, will all suffer. Who knows, a more simple solution could be to wait another decade or two. But by that time there may be no teachers left to worry about.