This post will be the first in a series I’m calling “Discussion Starters.” I’m going to present topics in education with the intention of encouraging conversation amongst readers in the comments. I’ll share some of my thoughts in each post. Readers can take over the conversation from there.
For the first Discussion Starter, I’m going with teacher salary. Specifically, I’m asking if readers feel teachers get paid enough.
Speaking from my experience, I can say I got paid plenty. My salary as a teacher was beyond what I needed. Admittedly, lived a different lifestyle than most of my colleagues lived. I had no car, no mortgage, and no children. With so few expenses, I didn’t long for any more than I earned. Living and working where I did helped, being in a city and state known for relatively high teacher salaries. I’ll acknowledge that my experience might have been atypical, which sets up my overall feelings about the matter.
The fairness of salary is somewhat relative. Within a given district, individual teachers will vary in how they can make what they earn work for them. Additionally, earnings at different steps range dramatically in many districts. Both of these factors are true of other fields. Salaries vary significantly from district to district and state to state. Some are better matched to proportionate costs of living then others. Again, this range is true of other fields, but the range is especially great in education.
So salaries are relative. Are they fair per the level of education and responsibilities teachers have? One must remember most teachers are paid for ten months of work and for shorter work days than most have in other professions. Their gross pay should be considered per the number of hours they work. Even if their gross seems low compared with other fields, they tend to receive extraordinary and low-cost benefits. Despite a ten month calendar, most also enjoy generous paid leave. These factors start to make teacher earnings look appropriate.
I’ve not included some intangibles, such as the complexity of what teachers face each day, or the absurd hours some choose (and “choose” is crucial here) to spend outside regular work hours planning, preparing, and grading. I’m not about to say teachers don’t put in a difficult slog. I do think the value of their salaries depends on where they teach and how they decide to live their lives in relation to their salaries. Considering their actual contractual responsibilities, their salaries be justified.
What do you think? Chime in via the comments section.