- In an article and podcast, The Hechinger Report shares the story of Jennifer Vetter, who changed careers to become a special education teacher and then returned to her former career in the healthcare field because of low teacher pay in Arizona.
- Vetter said after deductions for health care, pensions and taxes, she was taking home about $300 a week, and that many of her colleagues were working second and third jobs to remain in the middle class.
- Struggles such as this have caused teachers in many states to strike over the course of the past year, and teachers in more states may strike in the year to come.
The issue of teacher pay is a complex one that has given rise to multiple protests in recent months. While the issue at first appears to be a matter of states simply allocating more money to teachers, it's often not so simple because of administrative decisions by district leaders. Some states also have lower fiscal capacity and lower costs of living, which affect comparisons with other states. Overall, teacher salaries have remained stagnant or have dropped in many states over the past few years, though the reason for this may also have to do with changing teacher demographics.
Another issue is the take-home pay, a factor mentioned in The Hechinger Report's article. Rising health care benefit and pension costs account for much of this. According to an analysis by Chad Aldeman, editor of Teacherpensions.org, teachers’ pay has risen an average of 1.4% a year nationwide over the past 10 years, but health insurance costs have risen 4%, and retirement costs have risen 7.8% annually during the same period. Because of this, a recent study by the nonprofit Education Resource Strategies (ERS) has suggested a restructuring of teacher pay as one way to put more money in the hands of teachers.
However, teacher pay isn't the only issue affecting teacher strikes. Some teachers feel an erosion of respect along with the erosion of pay. School administrators can help the situation by doing what they can to reclaim the level of respect for the profession and changing school culture to a more supportive environment. In states where teacher protests are threatened, administrators need to plan ahead for ways to deal with the fallout as more teachers stopped working due to strikes last year than in any year since 1993, affecting instruction and exam preparation. In situations where money is at the discretion of administrators, they need to also make sure that teachers are getting their fair share of state allocations.