A teacher should be able to comfortably support a family on their income.
There, I said it. It’s out in the open. If you disagree, let’s hear why in a positive and constructive manner. If you believe that a teacher should not earn enough money to support a family, why not?
The fact of the matter is that teachers do NOT make enough money to support a family. In fact, they don’t even get close to making enough money. The situation is like this, in my opinion. The structure of teacher compensation in Arizona today is such that the profession is the epitome of a dead end job.
A dead end job is a job that offers no hope of financial security, despite improving in the skill and production the employee provides to the organization, a job where the input and expertise of the employee is not considered, a job where the employee is treated as interchangeable, perhaps even replaceable by a computer program.
Let’s tackle the financial aspect for now. In Arizona many districts had a pay scale based on number of years served in the district. Every year a teacher worked they would receive a slight bump in pay. Every few years the board would adjust that baseline to meet inflation (or try to make it look as though they were). It has been common practice to remove those pay scales (called steps) and instead rely on the board to give a raise of percentage to all teachers in that district.
That means that the teacher that is a warm body, handing out worksheets daily, and the teacher that is devoting their personal time to helping students and is actively helping other teachers improve their craft, both receive identical changes in pay, IF a governing body will approve the raise proposed by the district office. Since the largest expense of a district office is teacher salary, and they’re scrambling to make ends meet themselves, they’re pretty stingy about offering raises.
Combine that with inflation and out of control medical insurance premium increases and we suddenly have a situation where a teacher supporting a family is going broke, and fast.
I think we’ve established the lack of connection between compensation and performance.
What about the hope of financially securing a better future? Can a teacher support a small family by living modestly and still afford a surprise broken water heater, a flat tire, car registration and a trip to the doctor for a toddler with a cough, all in the same month without breaking out a credit card?
I did some research and used this link (https://smartasset.com/mortgage/the-cost-of-living-in-arizona) to calculate the average cost of some basic needs here in Arizona. Some of these seemed a bit high, others a bit low, but I just went with what I found.
A typical monthly income for a teacher with a family, one that is paying for insurance, is around $1,300 a month. The average expense for a family of four living modestly in Arizona is $1,840. Now that family will likely receive some public assistance, might have slightly cheaper auto insurance, might not own a cell phone … but even so, trying to raise a family on a teacher salary would mean living in debt.
I do not believe that is appropriate.
While people are working on the state to improve teacher pay and also, hopefully, excite some meaningful education reform to remedy the issues that caused this problem to begin with, as well as to improve the experiences of our students, I’m doing something to help.
Arizona’s Working Poor is a nonprofit organization. Our main function is to find teachers in Arizona that are the sole source of income for a family and give them a gift of $500. It is not welfare, it is a show of gratitude as well as an apology. We thank you for what you do, we thank you for the incredible sacrifices you and your family make on the behalf of the greater good of our society. We are sorry it took us so long to start working to change this thing.
If you’d like to read more about this program, called Giving Back, click here.
If you’d like to help our cause you can find information on our website to do so: http://arizonasworkingpoor.com