Oh, those greedy, whining teachers…complaining about pay when they knew the job didn’t pay when they got in it.  Why don’t they just shut up and get a different job? 

And this nonsense with showing pay stubs, come on.  Really people?  The governor told us how much money has been pumped into education, how much more teachers are making.  On top of whining and being greedy, you’re distorting the truth to line your own pockets…and at the expense of what’s best for kids. 

SHAME ON YOU!

These are things I have read on the internet and heard directly.  But I don’t blame the people that are saying these things.  They are misinformed.

I’d like to share with you how we ended up where we are today.  It didn’t happen overnight of course.  In recent history, the biggest contributing factor happened during the recession.  During the recession the leaders in education said, “Hey, we don’t have any money, so teachers, time to tighten your belts, it’s what’s best for kids … and you do what’s best for kids, don’t you?” 

The claim was that all of education was going to trim down, financially speaking.  To what extent that happened is history.  What’s not history is that the rest of education has had their belts loosened, while teachers have been punching holes and tightening all the while.

 

The cute story of the administrator who once made so little, but stuck it out, persevered and served her community well, the “look at me now, if you only knew me back then,” story, is not what’s happening today. 

Today, a teacher is worse off financially after a decade of teaching.  The story is, I started super poor, and went down from there!  Let me explain.

Before I got into teaching I sat down with my wife and we looked at the finances.  We would be able to support our small family because there were extra programs offered for teaches to participate in that paid a little extra and there was a salary scale.  Every year you worked, if you were retained, you got a small bump in pay.  Over the years, this helped make ends meet. 

Lean at first, but a promise of slightly better finances in the future.

During the recession teachers were devalued.  It was a paradigm shift that allowed schools to maintain programs (some great for kids, some that don’t affect kids at all).  There were years of pay freezes.  Since then, the pay freezes have gone, but none of those earnings were restored for teachers (non-educators working in education did not experience pay freezes in most places in the state). 

The real killer, however, is that the salary scales have disappeared!  The only way for a teacher to make more money in many districts across the state is if their local school board approves a raise. 

In my district we have received 2% each of the last two years.  Without adjusting for inflation over the past decade, that puts teachers with dependents a couple of hundred bucks behind where we were a few years ago because of insurance premiums.  Look at inflationary changes in the economy and the slow growth of teacher salary over the last decade, and it’s readily apparent that teachers are upside down in their careers.

To be clear:  During the recession a paradigm shift occurred where teachers were devalued.  That shift has only led to continued depreciation of teachers in the minds of the public and has given clear path for those allocating money to find clever ways to not pay teachers.

I should have stood up, spoken, taken a stand a decade ago.  I can’t fix that past mistake, but I can learn from it and try to do better now and in the future.

That’s what we are doing, fixing this now. 

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