The Problem with Teacher Pay: As a beginning teacher, I knew I would start out with a modest salary, but with increases in experience and education, I expected to move up the salary schedule and eventually achieve a comfortable middle-class lifestyle.
Veterans among our profession can remember a time when we could rely on a salary schedule that included annual raises and credit for years of experience and education levels attained. Salary schedules rewarded teachers for advanced education and training, while yearly raises helped retain experienced, veteran teachers and kept up with inflation.
However, during the recession, many district salary schedules were frozen, reduced, capped or eliminated and have yet to become active again a decade later. Even districts able to offer increases to the salary schedule generally haven’t kept up with the 2- 3 percent annual inflation rate.
A Possible Solution: A Statewide Salary Schedule
I’ve had many conversations about this with friends and colleagues but it is rarely ever discussed as policy. I’d like to bring it to the table as an item of discussion, especially as we begin to come together as teachers across the state.
A statewide salary schedule would equalize salaries across the state and guarantee a level of minimum pay based on qualifications and years of experience. A fair statewide compensation model attracts and retains qualified teachers.
A statewide salary schedule ensures a minimum salary a district must offer, allowing for local control.
No one goes into teaching to get rich. But as my friend Matt pointed out, teaching is still a JOB, not volunteer work.
We should be paid like the educated professionals that we are.
But the situation is dire. Arizona is the worst in the nation for teacher pay. We rank 50th in elementary teacher salary. Almost half of Arizona’s teachers keep second non-school jobs so that they can afford to teach. The Morrison Institute Education Workforce Survey found that 42% of teachers work an additional job. An additional 27 percent of teachers surveyed held second jobs in past, but not currently. The teachers I know do not have second jobs to buy luxuries like boats but to pay their mortgages and put food on their table.
More and more often, I hear stories of hopeful teenagers wanting to become third or fourth generation teachers. Their parents show them the financial challenges that they will face and the sacrifices that they will need to make to be a teacher. The aspiring teachers quickly change their minds and their majors. How many potential future music, computer science, and physics teachers do we lose because teaching is no longer a viable profession that provides financial means to live in the middle class?
To add insult to injury, teachers compensate for inadequate state funding by using our own limited financial resources to buy supplies for our classrooms and students.
That needs to end.
The solution is not throwing pennies at the problem by giving us $150 tax credits, but by adequately compensating teachers.
Our families and our personal finances shouldn’t have to suffer because we work an important career we love. Teachers are honorable, but we are not martyrs.
Lee Iacocca said, “In a completely rational society, the best of us would be teachers and the rest of us would have to settle for something less.”
Our teachers have been settling for something less in our pay for many years. We won’t have to settle for anything less for ourselves and our students if we stand together.
What do you think about a statewide salary schedule?