Students lobby for higher teacher pay

Middle schoolers poll every teacher in Grand County

Seventh grader Sadie Groene, left, and eighth graders Maggie Groene and Natalie Haase have been friends since kindergarten. They love being outdoors, school, and most importantly, their teachers. Courtesy photo

Do you value your children’s education? Do you expect teachers to educate your child for free? According to topeducationdegrees.org, teachers are paid the extremely low average of $55,000 annually in the United States.

Teachers do so much more than is asked of them and in return they receive low wages. Being a teacher requires numerous qualifications. Jobs that require less skill and less schooling pay more money than most teaching occupations. Some teachers do not have enough support from their salary and therefore they need a supplemental income. Teachers are extremely valuable to our society and they deserve to be paid in respect to that.

Teachers are given a small amount of money at the beginning of the year to pay for classroom supplies. More than 90% of the teachers in our anonymous survey answered that they sometimes have to pitch in their own personal money to cover the cost of the supplies they need. When they have to “pitch in” money, it is only subtracting from the minuscule salary they receive. They don’t have to do this, but do they really have a choice? Most teachers are committed to their jobs and they will do anything to make the learning environment the best it could possibly be for their students.

Inadequate salaries mean that many teachers cannot afford basic needs. In fact, almost 50% of our teachers say they cannot afford necessities. This, simply put, is outrageous. Teachers spend their entire career in the service of our children. The least we can do is let them live in comfort.

More than 32% of Grand County’s teachers are working more than one job to make ends meet. An average teacher in Utah makes less than 50,000 dollars annually, but many of Grand County’s teachers make even less. For teachers living in Moab (where a house costs 74% more than the U.S. average) it can often be difficult for them to afford essential items without the added income of a second job.

As we have stated previously, teachers constantly give their time to help struggling students, plan lessons, and address other issues. After working late, many teachers have to work a second job. Not only do second jobs limit teacher’s free time, they are also draining. Imagine spending a day, not only babysitting, but teaching, and then having to switch mindsets to wait tables or clean houses. Our teachers are giving their time and energy and they should not need to work a second job.

Imagine if 62% of Grand County teachers quit. Imagine if suddenly more than 800 students were not able to go to school. This would be possible because 62% of Grand County’s teachers have considered quitting. For many of them, their salary is the problem. As one teacher put it: “It’s frustrating working long hours and putting your heart and soul into it to get such little pay.”

Most teachers care deeply for their students and work earnestly to make their learning experience the best it can be. Unfortunately, teachers are underpaid for the work they do, and many are quitting because of it. For example, a 2018 Newsweek article described the severity of this situation; “Teachers, janitors, and other education professionals departed their jobs at an average rate of 83 per 10,000 a month in the first 10 months of 2018.” If we want the children of America to continue receiving the amazing education these teachers provide, teachers’ salaries need to be raised.

A common mistake opponents of increasing salaries make is that a teacher’s schedule follows a student’s. A person against a salary raise for teachers stated this very point on Debate.org by saying “…90% of the time that if your kids are out of school, you’re also not working, making it much easier to plan family vacations and such.”

Unfortunately, this is an incorrect assumption. An anonymous Grand County teacher explained: “I don’t think people realize how much we work during breaks … particularly in the summer.” Most teachers value their students’ education and put in so much extra time and effort (at their own expense). Thinking that teachers take off winter, Thanksgiving, summer break, etc. is an unfair assumption.

Many people would assume that teachers work only when they are at school. But, the truth is they work from early in the morning to late at night, and often on holidays. From the moment they get up to when their head hits the pillow, they are grading papers, preparing lessons, and doing household chores. An anonymous teacher explained that they did not sleep the previous night because they were worried about a struggling student.

Not one of our teachers are paid for the work they do preparing lessons, grading, and other jobs, but more than 80% believe that they should be getting paid for overtime. One teacher explained, “Teaching is very stressful. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done. I sometimes stay late or have to come in on the weekends to be able to meet the demands of teaching. We care deeply about our students, so we still think about them even when we are not at work. Many of us spend time away from our own families to do what needs to be done!”

Clearly, teachers deserve to be paid for the work they do, not the work people think they do.

Undoubtedly, something needs to be done about this crisis. Many teachers are quitting, and very few people are becoming educators. However, the answer is very simple: raise their pay. To do this, we need the support of everyone. Tell the Board of Education that this is a problem that we need to fix immediately. Education is the most powerful tool we possess.

Note: Many of the statistics and quotes used in this letter were gathered via an anonymous survey sent to all Grand County teachers.

– Sadie Groene
Maggie Groene
Natalie Haase
Moab