When you compare what teachers make in the United States, whether Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers, Middle School Teachers, High School Teachers, or Postsecondary Teachers, it is evident that their pay is not nearly enough. The teaching career is the primordial foundation of all other professions, whether we like it or not. When we compare what teachers earn to other occupations, their pay is not proportional to the value they bring to the table. This piece brings to bare the reasons to increase teacher’s pay in the United States.
“Teaching is the one profession that creates all other professions.” — Unknown.
The teaching profession is precious and forges the foundation of all other disciplines. We tend to overlook the value that they bring to the table. An ancient Chinese proverb stipulates that “If you are planning for a year, sow rice; if you are planning for a decade, plant trees; if you are planning for a lifetime, educate people.” If we are not planning to invest in the educational sector, we plan to fail as a nation. If we must project for a greater America, we must continue to invest in the education of our populace. However, we must take care of our teachers by incentivizing those already in the profession for this to happen. Hence, the domain will become more attractive to those who would like to become teachers in the future.
Teachers are the sculptors of human erudition and mindset. In the words of Joseph Addison, the English essayist, poet, playwright, and politician, “What sculpture is to a block of marble, education is to a human soul.” Teachers help students discover their interests, passions, potentials, and purpose in life at various levels of their lives. It takes years of molding, awakening, refreshing, and directing the child’s faculties towards becoming their best selves ever. Teachers do so by creating a social and intellectual ambiance in which learning can take place. We are all replete with potentials, and teachers help us discover what is already buried deep within our subconscious.
It is common knowledge that teachers are underpaid everywhere globally, not just in the United States. The above fact should not be the case, as they are the bedrock of all professions. There used to be a time when teachers agreed wholeheartedly that their reward is in heaven, but now, they want to get the products of their endless labor here on earth too. Teachers don’t mind cruising in Range Rovers or enjoy the other luxuries of life too. Come to think of it, is it too much for those who train other professionals also to live a little? In this piece, we would be looking at ten reasons teachers should be paid well in the United States.
Teacher’s Pay Vital Statistics
According to The Washington Post, the year 2018 saw one of the most prominent worker protests in a generation. Teachers across the country spearheaded the strikes that we saw in 2018. A total of 485,200 workers participated in the strikes. What trigger led to these strikes? Inequitable pay in comparison to other professions. Teacher pay has been in constant decline since the late 1990s, despite the growing large class sizes. A drop in the working and learning conditions in schools did not help the matter too. Education budget cuts did not even support the issue too.
The average salary for a full-time public-school teacher was lower in 2017–18 than in 1999–2000 ($59,100 vs. $59,700) data of the National Center for Education Statistics. That is a 1.00% decrease from the previous years. There is no significant difference in 2017-18 than in 2011-12 ($59,000). It was just a 1.2% increase. From this data, it is evident that the growth rate of pay for teachers is significantly low.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for kindergarten and elementary school teachers in May 2020, except special education, was $57,860 and $60,940, respectively. BLS establishes that the median annual wage for middle school teachers was $60,810 in May 2020.
BLS establishes that the median annual wage for high school teachers was $62,870 in May 2020. Furthermore, BLS demonstrates that the median yearly salary for postsecondary teachers was $80,790 in May 2020. BLS establishes that the median annual wage for special education teachers was $61,420 in May 2020. The statistics can go on. However, we now have some knowledge on the spectrum of pay for the different classes of teachers.
Teacher’s pay varies considerably from State to State. For instance, the NYC Department of Education establishes that “in the 2019-20 school year, starting salaries will range from $57,845 (bachelor’s degree, no prior teaching experience) to $87,510 (master’s degree, eight years teaching experience, plus additional coursework).” However, a fellow teacher in Mississippi does not fare as well as a teacher in New York or maybe California. According to the Mississippi Department of Education Teacher Salary Schedule 2021-2022, the average pay of teachers with zero years of experience is $39,583.
However, it is noteworthy that teachers’ weekly wages have continued to nosedive since the 1990s, with the opposite being the case of most other professions. Considering the value that teachers bring to the table, there needs to be a rethink of the pay we offer teachers. Teachers deserve more for the value that they bring to the table. Negligence to this fact could cause a meteoric decline in the teaching profession. Who will pay the final price should this happen? Your guess is as good as mine—those who the teachers cater to, their students.
10 Reasons to Increase Teacher’s Pay in the U.S.
When teachers give their very best in their profession, there is a direct correlation to positive student performance. On Education Next, a study titled “Do Smarter Teachers Make Smarter Students?” Establishes that there is a precise correlation that higher teacher pay increases teacher cognitive skills—which, in turn, is linked with better student performance. That is just one factor. However, we will consider more reasons why there should be an increase in teacher’s pay in the United States. Now, what are some of the reasons to increase teacher pay in the U.S.? Let’s find out more:
#1. Attracting New Teachers to the Profession
If the teaching profession is left to continue in its current state that it is in, it will cease to attract new persons, as the prospects of the job are not attractive. Research has shown that the remuneration offered to teachers is an essential element in the decision of an individual to join the profession. A survey by Third Way shows that pay plays a significant role in the choice of what students study in college. College students understand that the salary in a field of study for those with tenure in that profession matters as much as to those just starting. The fact is a clear indicator that they wouldn’t want to leave college for a job that doesn’t have much to offer.
It’s a common thing to find college graduates interested in lucrative job prospects than settling for teaching. It’s only rational to think that teachers’ salaries and wages would reduce teacher turnover. Research reveals that high salaries directly influence the quality of a district’s application pool, which explains why schools that pay well stay attractive in the local labor market. Reasonably, long-term investment in the teaching profession will have a lasting effect on the size and quality of application pools. Teaching jobs will look attractive and bring in new prospects to the profession.
#2. Retaining Teachers
Excellent and quality pay would go a long way in ensuring that capable hands are retained and not lost to other professions. In classrooms, salary remains the most crucial factor persons consider in choosing to stay or quit the teaching profession. Thus, teacher retention is directly proportional to the increase in teachers’ salaries. The different studies carried out in North Carolina, Tennessee, Florida, and Denver, Colorado show healthy correlations between teacher’s salaries and retention. The facts from the studies are significant because years of service greatly influence efficiency in most cases.
Effectiveness in the teaching profession is noticeable in the first five years of service in the classroom. People see teachers who over 20 years of teaching experience to be more effective and efficient. Isn’t it sad to know that 44% of new teachers leave the teaching profession in their first five years in service as stipulated in the research, “Seven Trends: The Transformation of the Teaching Force – Updated October 2018.” Studies show that high teacher turnover affects the students in classrooms. Consequently, there is also a hindrance to school-wide achievements, significantly when the teacher positively impacts the students.
#3. Diversification of the Teaching Workforce
It’s crystal clear that an increase in teachers’ salaries would help diversify the teaching workforce. As we saw in the preceding paragraphs, research shows that earnings potentials can influence the diversification of the teaching work pool. The diversity narrative is relevant, given the impact that a diverse teacher workforce has on students and the schools concerning peaceful coexistence. On the Western Governors University (WGU) website, there are benefits of teachers of color in P-12 classrooms. Having a teacher of color has enhanced the understanding of Mathematics and fluent reading for students of color, as shown by studies. Blacks and Latinos have positive perceptions of Black and Latino teachers over the white ones.
The teaching profession is very demanding and tasking. It always places a mandate on the teachers to be at their best. The onus is on them as they go through the inconvenience and stress of building the professionals of this time and the future leaders of tomorrow. Sadly, it’s on record that a fat chunk of new teachers quit teaching two to five years into the profession. Teaching without mincing words is a stressful profession. It is as stressful as being a policeman, a deployed military personnel in a war zone, or a working parent. They contend with full classes, delinquent students, and extracurricular work done with different methods every working day of the week.
The stress of teaching has quadrupled with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. Teachers must deal with their students (i.e., in the open schools); they must also be careful to practice social distancing in their classrooms during the pandemic situation. Not too many listicles online consider the teaching profession a stressful one; however, it is imperative to mention that their job is quite stressful, even more in a pandemic situation. Hence, the U.S. Department of Education needs to rethink concerning the need to incentivize teachers in the classroom. They can do this via a pay bump to thank you for all that they do.
What is it exactly that a teacher doesn’t take the blame for, to say the very least? Just mention it. The profession at every instance needs to defend itself, sometimes from politicians, at other times from uninformed parents, and sometimes, unappreciative or entitled parents. While teachers get stipends as a wage compared to some highbrow professions, they also face social, economic, and political updates affecting them. And after dealing with all these, a good number of them are still condemned to bashing due to poor grades and poor student performance. It is almost as if they are pretty defenseless from all they throw at them from various quarters.
Talk about being defenseless in an age where mass shootings are becoming more prevalent in schools. The statistics are becoming quite ominous. According to the Center of Homeland Defense and Security’s K-12 School Shooting Database, the Knoxville school shooting on April 12 marks the 37th school shooting of 2021. Teachers and students alike are often sitting ducks in the face of mass shootings. The reality of what is happening in the United States of America is a hard pill to swallow. Teachers deal with a lot of stress, which puts them in a very vulnerable position, physically and mentally. When the equation of school shootings enters the mix, it adds to their stress. These and many other reasons stand in the road of people falling for the noble profession.
#6. Beyond Teaching + The Extra Mile
Teachers do a whole lot beyond just teaching, even when it means going out of their way to proffer solutions to the problems students present. For example, a kindergarten teacher goes through a lot to ensure that the kids pick up reliable information. Parents of such kids are always in awe to find them learning fast at school, sometimes forgetting that someone went through a lot to impart knowledge into their kids, yet that person remains underpaid. It wouldn’t be surprising to find a high school teacher managing the job of a counselor and advisor alongside her teaching job. Do these people deserve to be underpaid?
Teachers wear many hats. They go the extra mile to take care of all the pupils that are under their tutelage. I read an article titled, “You Are So Much More than Just a Teacher: The many Hats Educators Wear,” by Sally White, a public high school teacher, on the website Bored Teachers. The article posits that as an educator, you will wear many hats, and this officially valid. In addition to teaching students, teachers are also: comedians, ringmasters, providers, empaths, counselors/life-coaches, detectives, nurses, test administrators, role models, polygraphers, content experts, motivators, drill sergeants, mediators, referees, decorators, janitors, cheerleaders, event planners, mentors, police, etc. Teachers go the extra mile by wearing many hats. If any career deserves a significant raise, it is the teaching profession, for they are Jack-of-all-Trades and masters of all.
#7. Not Just the First Glance
A teacher’s job is way beyond the first glance of what we think the profession to be in the first place. While many think teaching is just about standing in front of students, its demands are way more encompassing. Teaching requires courage. Teaching requires mental resilience. For instance, think about the toll it takes on you to raise three kids in a house. When the COVID-19 shut down happened, I bet that many teachers let out a sigh of relief when many schools resorted to virtual classes. It’s not as if they are still not under stress; however, part of the tutelage baton went into the hands of parents. Many parents wear pulling the hair out of their heads during this time, trying to manage their wards’ educational needs, and still work virtually from home. Many came to appreciate the Clark Kent powers of being a teacher—it is not what it seems at first glance—it is not an easy profession.
To be a teacher, you must have a resilient mental fortitude. What do we say about the effortlessness in which they manage to draw out lesson plans, professional meetings, parent-teacher meetings, grading assignments, and still operating their chores without compromising in any way? It is not all it seems at first glance. We must appreciate what their soldiers of erudition are doing in helping us educate the minds of our wards. When we see soldiers here in America, we tell them, “Thank you for your service!” Now, I have also started telling those in the medical profession the same thing considering that the COVID-19 pandemic has made many of them pass through the needle’s eyes in their jobs as they work effortlessly to save lives. However, let us doff our hats for teachers also. Next time you see a teacher, tell them, “Thank you for your service!” For the Herculean load of what teachers do and still try to stay sane, I would espouse that teachers are gods then—maybe uncelebrated ones! They are continuously operating at full throttle to slay the hydra-headed problems that impact the transfer of knowledge to the next generation. Should we not appreciate them more by raising their pay significantly?
No one can boldly say that they haven’t been positively affected by any of their teachers at any point in their lives. Think about some of the teachers that made the most impact in your life? Share your stories in the comment section. I remember my teachers sometimes. There are elementary school teachers at Alvan Ikoku Staff Primary School that I will never forget. These teachers profoundly impacted my life. Some of the teachers are Mr. Oguemedom, Mr. Iroh, Mr. Nkpa, Mrs. Uguru, etc. These teachers and the various teaching styles and leadership left an indelible mark on my life growing to date. The same goes for teachers in my high school days and even in college. Some of them shared their life experiences so that we can learn from them, even their biggest regrets. Such effort and impact are one of the things some parents don’t find time to do.
Teachers are sculptors that mold the minds of generations of leaders. The impact that teachers deliver goes through a lifetime in helping to shape the mindset of everyone in becoming the best that they could ever become. We do not celebrate teachers enough in the American culture. We are prone to celebrating athletes, the military, the rich and famous, etc. We do not remember teachers enough. We forget their genius in helping raise the Titans of Technology and Business. We ignore their patience in helping to cultivate the leaders of our tomorrow. We allow them to struggle to make ends meet—that is not right, America. We need to celebrate the teaching workforce. We need to make the teaching workforce have the “it factor” in the community of all professions. One of the ways that we can do is to increase their pay significantly. Let us tell them that we appreciate the value that they bring to the table.
#9. Education Value
It’s pretty amazing how the struggle to get good pay by teachers in America undermines the value of education in the country. The United States of America is still a crucible of knowledge. However, the United States no longer ranks as the most literate nation globally, as seen in the Oaekpost article “10 Most Literate Countries in the World.” At the time of writing the article, the United States ranked 5th among all highly literate nations. Could the loss of the top status of being the number one literate nation globally be due to the lack of focus and emphasis by the leadership on growing the educational sector in the country? Could not increasing the pay of teachers be a contributing factor to this education value decline?
What is to be said of the State’s education when its caretakers struggle to make ends meet? Teachers are the foundation that holds the education structure everywhere in the world. What you focus on will grow. What you feed will flourish. The United States needs to pay more attention to its educational sector to reclaim its lost glory. The more the country puts into education, the more you get out of it. However, if the system is left to continue moving this way, it will affect the quality of education we provide future generations. Many new teachers tend to quit their jobs, searching for greener pastures and other well-paying jobs within the first five years of entering into the field. As much as education deserves to be valued, teachers deserve to be appreciated too!
#10. We May Have No Teachers
The truth is that we may have no more teachers in the future. Why? Teachers are going through an enormous challenge with very little cheerleading to help them along in the process. With the many hats that they wear, the enormity of the job could make it more challenging. Being a teacher can be exceedingly overwhelming. Thus, they also need a support system to help them through the challenges they face, especially in the first few years of joining the profession. Failure to do so may lead to a drastic teacher shortage in the future.
I can remember vividly back in the days in school, the prevalent excuse many people give for not desiring to become teachers hung on the wealth factor. Many people believe that becoming a teacher meant that you would end up poor. Many believe that teachers also find it challenging to make ends meet in life. Teachers also have responsibilities. They have families to cater to and have dreams and aspirations too. Hence, teachers wouldn’t mind trying their hands-on better jobs, especially if they feel like the teaching profession is not getting the attention and care required. And this is what gives rise to the high teacher turnovers.
We have seen in this listicle the reasons to increase the pay of teachers in the United States of America. The core reasons all surmise that the profession brings a lot of value to the table. However, for us to ensure that the profession’s value keeps on giving, we must celebrate the career and give honor to whom honor is due. Teachers wear many hats. They need our encouragement and support as they go about their duties to instill knowledge in our wards and train the leaders of tomorrow.
“The dream begins, most of the time, with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you on to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called truth.” — Dan Rather.
The teaching profession is a wonderland of possibilities. Teachers need our encouragement in other to continue performing at an optimum level. The essence of this piece is to do just that—to encourage our teachers by telling them, “We appreciate your service!” Thank you for wearing all the hats that you do as you build the minds of our future generations. Hopefully, this clarion call to the powers that be will motivate our leaders to increase the pay as an incentive to recognize the novel and unique heroism of the teaching profession. Reader, if you were in a position of authority, would you investigate teachers’ salaries? Would you make a change happen?