WHY TEACHER PAY IS A STUDENT ISSUE

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WHY TEACHER PAY IS A STUDENT ISSUE

Photo by Sydney Webb

Photo by Sydney Webb

Photo by Sydney Webb

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A favorite pastime of most high school students is griping about the homework-giving, test-dispensing, happiness-sucking gremlins known colloquially as teachers. While these descriptors are usually unwarranted, grumbling makes the pain of school more bearable. Yet, it seems teachers should be the ones doing most of the complaining.

Over the past decade, infamously low teacher pay has followed a decreasing trend in the U.S. The average teacher salary is currently $58,064, and teacher pay in 2016 dropped significantly lower than it was in 2010 after accounting for inflation.

While it can sometimes be difficult to see why happiness-sucking gremlins should be paid much more at all, the students who encounter this rare breed have the most to gain from better teacher pay. By increasing teacher compensation, education quality also increases. Here’s how:

 

Better Pay, Better Teachers

Many teachers work second or even third jobs. Several teachers at Dreyfoos, including social studies teachers Kathleen O’Hara and Afton May, must balance other work with their careers as educators. If teachers were paid enough so that their expenses could be met without working other jobs, they would be able to devote more time to grading papers, developing lessons, and working one on one with students. They could also purchase more materials for their students, as over 92 percent of teachers purchase classroom supplies with their own money.

Boosting teacher pay would also attract more qualified candidates to teaching positions. Because many teachers struggle to make ends meet, others who may be skilled and passionate about education are discouraged from entering the field. Extensive studies have shown this to be exactly the case. When instructors make more money, there is more competition for high-paying jobs, which in turn means high-quality professionals who stay in their jobs for longer periods of time.  

 

The Power of a Good Teacher

But what impact would better teachers really have on students? A big one, apparently. One study in Los Angeles actually concluded that the black-white achievement gap could be effectively closed if students had a teacher from “the 25 percent most effective group of teachers” for four consecutive years.

An influential teacher can also increase a student’s earnings later in life. Eric Hanushek of Stanford University found that a teacher in the 93rd percentile of the nation’s best teachers could add $640,000 of lifetime earnings to a group of 20 students ( $32,000 to each individual). Such astonishing findings emphasize the important, yet underappreciated, role teachers play in society. When teachers receive proper compensation, students receive a better education and in turn have an easier time climbing the economic ladder.

 

Hope for the Future

Investing in the future of America’s children is a favorite talking point of politicians, but until teachers have the resources to support themselves, these officials have neglected their promises. In recent years, teacher strikes across the country, including the recent Los Angeles strikes, have yielded promising results for teachers’ bank accounts. Palm Beach County teachers are prohibited from walking out, but in November, voters agreed to higher property taxes in exchange for higher School District funding, which includes an increase in teacher salary. As we continue in this positive direction, Palm Beach County students will find themselves more successful, not only in school but throughout their lives.

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