The weight of the world

Teachers educate the future on a nickel-and-dime budget

Across America, teachers face the challenge of supporting their classrooms, their families and themselves with inadequate salaries. In the debate over teacher pay, it is necessary to address those that are affected the most: schools located in areas with minority, low-income communities. Teachers at Del Valle schools have much more pressing issues than classroom supplies to worry about as the percentage of the total student population who are at risk of dropping out is 72.2. Kids often come to school with empty backpacks and empty stomachs, which prevent them from being able to pay attention and truly absorb information. Textbooks are outdated and typically in a state of disrepair, and teachers and students alike do not have adequate access to technology, which is vital to transition into an age of online assignments.

The amount that teachers are paid is disproportionate to the influence that they have in educating future generations.

According to the 2016 American Community Survey released by the U.S. Census Bureau, the median income in Texas is $56,565 per year—an amount that even a teacher with 20 years of teaching experience will be $10,000 shy of earning. The middle class income range starts at $37,900, but teachers with no prior experience can have a starting salary as low as $27,320. Even though Texas teachers have had fewer pay cuts than more than half of the states in the nation, there is still much more that needs to be done in order to fully fund our public school system. Teachers deserve adequate supplies and training, but even more than that, they deserve wages that don’t drive them to second jobs, to missed rental payments or to the local food banks.

Our government needs to realize that the amount that teachers are paid is disproportionate to the influence that they have in educating future generations. In Texas, a majority of state funding and property taxes are alloted towards funding public education. Even so, most teachers in Austin are still left underpaid in a city where property taxes are exponentially increasing and personal expenses are increasing much faster than the means to pay for them. On top of that, teachers have to pay out-of-pocket to replace supplies that are either outdated or not  rovided to them in the first place. Our legislators should be doing more to address the effects that Austin’s ever-increasing cost of living has on teachers. This is especially true for new teachers, who don’t have the experience required to negotiate an increase in their salary, or the ability to even negotiate a fair, living wage. Young teachers out of college are also saddled with student loans, and making such a menial wage means that they won’t be able to pay off these loans for a very long time, causing them to rack up  nterest. And while it’s true that most people don’t get high-paying jobs straight out of college, few professions have wages as stagnant as teachers. Look at the wages of workers one, two or three decades out of college and you’ll quickly notice that most professions have an upward trend—except teaching. Is this really the value we place on our children’s futures?

Teachers are forced to search for second jobs during this so-called ‘vacation’ time to supplement their meager income.

The other problem that Texas teachers face is their inability to go on strike without the threat of their teaching certificates being revoked. Being denied their constitutional rights makes teachers unable to protest for increased wages, rendering their voices almost useless in promoting real change.

Those who argue against increased wages for teachers on the grounds that they have summers off or work less during the week than those in other full-time jobs aren’t taking into consideration the staggering amount of behind-the-scenes work educators do. Grading work and designing lesson plans takes up weeknights and weekends, and the majority of their summers are spent preparing for the new school year, and in some cases, teachers are forced to search for second jobs during this so-called “vacation” time to supplement their meager income. Some teachers can lean on the salaries of spouses, but that’s often not enough to also support their own children. Add the fact that teachers also have to deal with meddling district officials, students dealing with social/emotional problems and irate parents, and it becomes clear that teaching is already a full-time job and then some.

We are living in a world where what teachers are teaching in the classroom plays a vital role in shaping the lives of their students. Teachers have the weight of the world on their shoulders to make sure students are prepared for their lives after K-12 education. Every year, teachers accept that challenge by working for next to nothing and are expected to dedicate all their effort and hard work in order to better the future, not for a paycheck. This is why their job is one of the most important jobs in America, and their pay should reflect that title. They raise the next generation. It is time for their salaries to go up, and for teachers to finally be appreciated for the work they have done for our country.