Public-school educators have directly and indirectly impacted virtually every person in the country today in countless ways. Most teachers would say that their career is rewarding in many incredible ways that simply can’t be found in other jobs. Those educators would not likely say, however, that it is financially very rewarding. In fact, most people agree that public school teachers in the United States are grossly underpaid.
While some people try to make the claim that teacher compensation is fair because they get summers off, spring break, Christmas break, and other times off, that is really an overly simplistic approach. During their ‘time off’ many teachers are catching up on grading papers, preparing lessons, taking classes to keep their knowledge current, and much more. Looking at the actual pay that teachers at USA public schools earn can help illustrate just how underpaid (and overworked) they are.
Public School Educators vs College-Educated Professionals
When trying to determine whether our teachers are underpaid or not, one of the first things that one should do is look at their level of education. Virtually all public-school educators are required to have a degree in education.
In 2015, a study was done that looked at the wages of public-school teachers in the US and compared them to comparable college-educated professionals. The results showed that teachers made approximately 17% less. The wage gap only grew when those in the study had more seniority in their careers.
Dramatic Shifts in Job Duties
When someone graduates from University and enters the workforce, they will typically focus on one particular field for quite some time. Even when they get promotions or move jobs, they will usually do the same general type of work so that their experience can continue to build.
Teachers, however, often don’t enjoy this luxury. It is not uncommon for a teacher to have to change the type of classes they teach from year to year based on the needs of the school. Elementary school teachers often have to move between grade levels to ensure the school is staffed properly each year. While they remain in the broader educational field throughout their career, there can be some dramatic shifts that require them to learn entire new subjects.
Endless Hours for Public School Educators
While it is true that teachers generally have more time outside the classroom than someone in another field would have outside the workplace, that is not the only thing that should be looked at. During the school year, educators have to work significantly more than a standard eight-hour day. In almost all cases, teachers need to come in early or stay late to offer one-on-one support to students. They also work right through their lunch to help their students in many cases. On top of that teachers almost universally report that they have to spend a significant amount of time at home grading papers, preparing class schedules, and much more.
Since public school educators in the US are salaried, they aren’t directly compensated for these additional hours. As anyone who has worked overtime in any industry knows, it is a lot more difficult to put in several extra hours in a day than it would be to work additional days in the summer.
Purchasing their Own Materials
One of the most disappointing things that teachers have to face is the fact that they typically have to purchase their own supplies for the classroom. In no other profession would someone tolerate having to purchase their own pens, paper, and other resources required for success. The fact that teachers care so much about their students that they are willing to spend their own money on these things really helps to illustrate what a treasure our educators really are.
Hopefully someday soon we will begin compensating them fairly for all their hard work!