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 


15 thoughts on “Should a Teacher’s Salary Be Able to Support a Family

  1. My son and his wife are both teachers. They have 2 young sons. My son is still working a second job to supplement their income. He will likely have to continue doing do just to keep up with expenses associated with raising children. I feel bad that he misses out on quality time with his boys because he is at work two evenings a week and on Saturday afternoons.

  2. Pamela A. Bailes says:

    My daughter is a single mother with two children to support. She has been teaching for fourteen years, yet is forced to live with me because she does not earn enough money to feed, clothe, and house her family. She has run several after school sports programs a couple of days a week and holds a class after school on another just to earn a few extra dollars. She lives only fifteen minutes from her school, but must leave between seven and seven thirty in the morning to handle office hours and meetings. She seldom gets home before five and has only thirty minutes for lunch. I am surprised that we are able to hold on to the small number of teachers that are still in our classrooms.

    • Thank you to all the parents who chose to help there struggling children.
      I myself do the same 2 children living in with my mother to supplement, in az i would not make it alone.

  3. Elizabeth Oppel says:

    I have family who are teachers and it just doesn’t make sense to spend so much money on getting a Teaching degree with the amount of wages they earn. In many cases their student loans cost more then what they earn in a year. It’s so sad that such as important job as teaching has such small wage. Teachers deserve far more then they are being paid.

    • Jill Cooper says:

      We teachers all just know the limitations. I worked in corporate before teaching / and we had no idea how good we had it. My lunch is 24 minutes long now. I love my job- but there are no breaks.

  4. Very simple. I completed my educational requirements in 2004 and became an elementary education teacher in 2005. The salary was so low that in 2009 when I left teaching due to my school closing I returned to nursing and have been back in this profession ever since. At least I was able to pay off my loans! The wages do not justify the expense of the education!

  5. It’s a pitiful state that can’t allocate proper funding for schools. No, taxes don’t need to be raised to support a school and it’s staff… better resource and funds allocation is needed. But, if you were going to slap a tax to help on something I’d do it on soda pop and junk food. However, I know a bill was passed in Arizona after prop 204 for early childhood education was defeated to NOT allow a soda pop tax. Politicians got lobbied by that industry didn’t they? WTG politicians.. hope the extra dollars in your coffers was worth it.

  6. Tonya Downs says:

    Myself and my husband are teachers. We moved here from Indiana 2 yrs where my husband was making $50,000 a yr b/c he had 20 yrs of experience. We each bring home right at $1800 a month.
    Monthly income $3600 4 member family
    Rent $750
    Cell phones $300. Verizon 3 phones and iPad
    Electric $155 avg
    Car ins $180
    Renters ins $35
    Gas/water $155 avg
    2 Car payments $545 total 2004/2007
    Gas each $100
    School lunches for 2 kids per mo $90
    Cable/internet $160 cheapest we could find
    Furniture rent to own $160 Because we moved here with no furniture!!
    Total expenses $2730 mo out of 3600 leaves $870 for groceries and any other unexpected expense!!! The avg 4 member family on welfare gets approx $750 of food stamps if you go by that then that leaves $120 to pay school expenses athletic fees car maintenance or whatever else comes up on a monthly basis!!!! My husband DJs on the side to bring in extra money which is not a guaranteed Reg thing. He has a masters degree and certification for principal with 20 yrs teaching and is batrly making above a first or second yr teacher!!! How is that right?? I actually bring home about $20 more a check because he pays for ins for the family and I am in my 3rd yr teaching… it is so disheartening to always being able to barely pay your bills and to never have anything extra!!!

    • Hubby and I were both teachers in Arizona before retirement. Looking at your budget above, I have to say we didn’t ever figure we could afford cable or fancy cell phones, but otherwise our budget looked much the same . Our kids were all grown when we moved to Arizona (except the youngest), and we were able to contribute very little to their college educations; they had to rely on grants, scholarships, and too many loans. Don’t know how you feed your family, let alone any extras…medical co-pays in case anyone gets sick, for example. Why did we stick with it? Because we felt a calling to try to make a difference in the lives of “our kids”, which is how we always referred to our students.

  7. Marie Holmes says:

    Please vote for pro-educator representatives. So far, we do not have any Representatives that fit that description in our Legislature. The closest that fit that description are some of the Democrats.

  8. The stats on state tax seem high – I remember opting for my state tax to be a percentage (20%) of the federal deduction, but as you say, you found what you found. One item most people are burdened with is a student loan payment. I taught with a friend who had been paying on her loans for 14 years!! “Go to college! You’ll get a better paying job!” Sadly, not the case with teaching.

  9. Karen V. Packard says:

    This all goes back to that bipartisan attack on public education called No Child Left Behind followed by the even worse Race to the Top and Standards written primarily by a testing company based in the U.K.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>