In the spring, teachers in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Colorado, North Carolina, Arizona, and Kentucky went on strike. They decided that after years of low salary, budget cuts, overfilled classes, insufficient retirement plans, purchasing classroom supplies with their own money and archaic textbooks, enough was enough. Many of these teachers were in districts where they had to work multiple jobs just to stay afloat and felt that their concerns about education were not being heard by their state governments.
Although the national average teacher salary is $58,030, many teachers do not receive that figure; for instance, teachers in West Virginia have an average salary of $45,000, while it takes teachers in Oklahoma about 10 years to receive a $40,000 salary. To put it frankly, American teachers are not paid well enough.
Low teacher salary is not only bad for teachers, it is also bad for their students and education as a whole. If teachers are not paid well, then the job will not attract the brightest college graduates. According to the Hechinger Report, approximately 20 percent of teachers come from the bottom third of SAT scores.
Low teacher salary can negatively affect students’ results in reading proficiency, standardized tests and lead to low retention rates for new teachers. According to The New York Times, 46 percent of new teachers nationwide quit before their fifth year.
In order to put a stop to this, several changes need to be made. First, in order to attract more college graduates to the field, all teachers should be able to apply for complete student loan forgiveness after teaching for five years.
Although a program like this already exists (TLFP), it only applies to loans of up to $5000 and to high school math and science teachers with loans up to $17,500, and it is only eligible for teachers at qualifying (usually low-income) schools.
Second, the government should prioritize education funding over other things, like industry subsidies. In one of the wealthiest nations on Earth, there should be no need for teachers to pay for classroom supplies with their own money.
Third, the better a teacher is, the higher their salary should be. Currently, teachers can receive raises based on their level of education and the length of their career, but this should not be the only way to receive one. Teachers should also receive raises based on certain metrics of student performance such as reading and math proficiency, AP or IB test scores and college readiness.
And lastly, and quite simply, a larger portion of our budget must be directed to teacher salary. Although these measures might seem too expensive for the economy, one must wonder that if the government can adequately fund industries like coal, agriculture and oil, why can’t it properly fund education?