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Teachers, Student Loans, and Salary

January 4th, 2008 at 04:52 pm

I came across an interesting article in a National Education Association magazine. It was all about how the rising price of college tuition is impacting teachers and those who are considering going into teaching. Horror stories of people having up to 80k in student loans and being afraid of going into teaching were plastered all across the pages.

It's no secret that teachers don't make millions of dollars; however, we make a decent living. My starting pay this year was $34,500. If you're not too extravagant, that's a respectable starting salary. After I get my master's degree, I'll be making somewhere around $41,000, with salary for a classroom teacher topping out in the vicinity of $60,000.

Now, we've established that teachers do not make gobs of money, but they definitely don't make rabbit feed. This still leaves the question hanging, however: is it not enough money? Should teachers make more money?

Here's the simple answer: we'll see.

If teachers really are making too little money, fewer people will go into teaching. More current teachers will leave. Teacher quality will depreciate.

Now, this may lead us all to think that this will bring teachers' salaries up. That is not necessarily the outcome. While having fewer quality teachers will definitely harm our civilization, we may allow that to happen. What will determine our teacher quality is what our society ultimately values.

If we truly value education, we will fund it adequately. If we do not value education, no matter what we may claim, we will not fund it adequately.

As an educator, I don't really care which way things go. I love teaching, but if I didn't think I was making enough money, I'd go do something else. How much money I make from teaching is not something I get to decide. For the time being, I'm happy with my lot.

To bring things full circle, I don't think improving teachers' salaries is the answer to student loan debt. It is possible to get a quality and affordable education. I don't know why people are shocked that you can't be a teacher when you have $100,000 in student loans. There are a lot of things you can't do if you have that much in student loans.

DISCLAIMER (to be read aloud so quickly that the words blur together in one fine-print mumble): The above statement in no way means that the author does not appreciate the actions of the wise and venerable NEA in terms of fighting to put more cold hard cash in his pockets. Actually, the author applauds all such efforts and heartily wishes the NEA and all of its member-affiliates the best of luck in every valiant and noble quest they decide to undertake.

6 Responses to “Teachers, Student Loans, and Salary”

  1. MarianneJ Says:

    My SIL is a teacher in CA studying for her Masters. My MIL mentioned tonight that NY is now (or very soon to be) requiring all its teachers to have a Masters degree. This sounds crazy to me since just as you stated in your post, that will force more debt onto teaching candidates yet I am sure they will not be paying them any more than they do now. I think this is going to lead to a teacher shortage fairly quickly. My DD has been extremely lucky and has had EXCELLENT teachers for K, 1st and 3rd grades. Her 2nd grade teacher was okay but not excellent like the others I mentioned, but we feel very lucky. I think it is great that states want to have more quality teachers in our schools but we also have to be willing to pay them more money also.

  2. collegemomma Says:

    Yes, the salaries you mentioned don't seem too bad, but there are several factors that I'm sure you've encountered that makes it too little.

    First, teachers do not always just work "school hours". I know a lot of the teachers at my boys' elementary school are there for quite some time after school, on some weekends, and holiday breaks. They also bring work home with them such as grading and planning. And many do not have enough parent volunteers to help out. My oldest son's teacher is very shy to ask for help because she said she never really had any before. Twice now I've talked her into letting me help her make copies that she would of had to do on a Saturday or over winter break. If a corporate worker spent as much time in the workplace or bringing work home as most teachers do, you better believe they would be trying to figure out how much they are really making compared to the number of hours they are working.

    Secondly, teachers end up purchasing most of their supplies out of their own pockets. I believe there is some sort of tax deduction for this, but not enough for what they have to buy. That also greatly decreases their income.

    But at the same time the lower pay says one thing about most teachers. They are definitely there to help kids learn because it is not for the money. I know the ones my boys have had are terrific and deserve so much more!

  3. davera Says:

    You may have already seen this, but it was sent to me today. I thought it was very apropos to your post. Keep up the good work!

    The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life. One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his
    best option in life was to become a teacher?" He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can't, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

    Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness replied, "You want to know what I make?" She paused for a second, then began...

    "Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could. I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor. I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an I Pod, Game Cube or movie rental..."

    "You want to know what I make?" She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.

    I make kids wonder.
    I make them question.
    I make them criticize.
    I make them apologize and mean it.
    I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.
    I teach them to write and then I make them write.
    I make them read, read, read.
    I make them show all their work in math.
    I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.
    I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.
    I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America .
    Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

    Bonnie paused one last time and then continued. "Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant .. You want to know what I make?
    I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?"

  4. boomeyers Says:

    Oh Davera - LOVE IT!! In Missouri you have to get your Masters too. Jobs for teachers are hard to get here too! Awesome qualified people are fighting over jobs!

  5. fern Says:

    It's really unfortunate that certain occupations, like actors and professional athletes, rake in wildly crazy salaries while most of us everyday folks struggle and scrape for every extra dollar we get.

    That being said (and i know i'm going to be attacked for saying this), teachers get more vacation time than anyone else i know. They may work later or longer hours when it's called for, but so does every other white collar professional, and unlike those paid by the hour, we don't get anything extra for it. So teachers have the luxury of deciding whether to just have fun most of the summer, and during Xmas break, or taking a temporary job to supplement their income. Where else can you do that?

    I'm not saying teachers don't do a very important job, but the fringe benefits are priceless, and unique to their occupation, so perhaps that's factored in to the salary equation.

  6. EnglishTeacher Says:

    Fern, thank you for being bold enough to say that. The truth of the matter is that I agree with you for the most part. Nobody else gets summer break and snow days. I just had three days off in a row for snow days.

    I was saying in my post that I am happy with my salary for the time being. It's true that everyone thinks they can talk to a teacher however they choose. It's true that teachers have to deal with crap from students, administration, parents, and the state. It's true that we have to work many extra hours. BUT, overall, I think my salary adequately compensates me.

    You are right: everyone has problems. However, I think one reason teachers are so sensitive about what they do is that very few people actually respect the profession. But that's the nature of the beast. I choose to just go about my business and let people say what they want. I feel that much of the self-aggrandizing teachers throw around comes off as just that: self-aggrandizing.

    Teaching is a real job. Like anything else, it has its good and bad points. It doesn't pay as much as most professions, but in my humble opinion, overall, it's a nice deal.

    Best wishes!

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