The start of another school year signifies the ever-presentepidemic that is sweeping through our educational system andchallenging our American values.
This year, and in the years to come, teachers are facing newchallenges with new technologies, higher educational standards andstudents maturing at record rates. All of this is beingaccomplished on a fixed budget with tired eyes.
Teachers represent one of the largest populations of overworkedand underpaid professionals, and the future is not very promising.According to www.teachwashington.org, the average earnings of abeginning teaching professional in Washington State is in the$30,000 a year range. Compare that to the wage earnings of ateacher with 16 plus years under his or her belt and amaster’s degree and there is only a difference of about$20,000. It costs more than that just to earn that master’sdegree.
Yet the ambition to teach is still met and surpassed, and instartling numbers. On average, most job openings for elementaryschool teachers have hundreds of applicants for one job, and highschools notice similar results with job postings.
So what is the driving force for such an overworked andunderpaid field?
I’m sure a number of people would see this profession aseasy. You know with summers off, and being home by 4 p.m. everyday.Plus you can live on that $30,000 per year, right? Sure I supposethe job can stop there, but does it?
For most it does not. There are papers to grade, lessons toplan, and functions to attend, plus meetings, and that extra kid inyour class who needs just a little bit more of your attention.
Of course let’s not forget that when you add up all the extrahours outside the classroom, earnings fall somewhere in the singledigits. Still the money accounts for some bit of comfort. Betterfactor buying school supplies into your budget, because, althoughthe state and district you’re working for does not pay for them,they are nonetheless needed. Let’s not forget Uncle Sam getshis part too, and don’t be expecting any tax breaks here.
Then there is the stuff they don’t tell you about: theeducational credits that are required for teachers to continueteaching certification, courtesy of their own budget. Studentloans, here we come.
It saddens me to know that the children of our teachers qualifyfor reduced and free lunches, and we as a society think that thisis okay.
When did it become okay to put the lives of our children and thehopes of our futures into a multitude of under-appreciated,overstressed individuals?
Americans value time, setting our clocks for daylight savings.We value money. The average bank manager makes $106,000 a year. Andwe even value the guy who paints our house, paying him an averageof $40,000 a year to start. But how do you draw a correlationbetween one who pushes numbers for a living and one who molds theminds of future generations?
We rely on our teachers for that part. The ones who get upeveryday, work through their weekends, take on extra jobs in thesummertime and find their reward in that one student who, withoutmuch notice, completes his sentence with a period at the end.