Recent teacher strikes in places like Oklahoma and West Virginia have shown many how underpaid and unappreciated America’s teachers have become. Stories about teachers having to purchase basic school supplies have demonstrated the dedication of teachers, in spite of the constant disrespect. Stories of teachers having to take second jobs to pay their bills have highlighted the seriousness of the personal problems faced by those doing what may be the most important job in society. Stories of school districts going to four-day weeks to save money make it clear the current system is failing way too many of our students.
Before outlining my idea, let’s get a few facts on the table:
- If you have a median income, half of all wage earners make more than you and half of all wage earners earn less than you.
- In 2016, the median income in the United States was $59,039. The official data for 2017 has not yet been published.
- In 2016, the average teacher salary in the United States was $58,353.
- In 36 states, the average teacher salary was below the national average of all teacher salaries.
- In South Dakota, the average teacher salary was $42,125.
While many of us know teachers do some of the most important work in our nation, how many of us realize how relatively underpaid teachers have always been?
It would be impossible to pay teachers what they are worth; however, we should be able to agree on the idea that every teacher should be guaranteed a median income. If teachers do one of the most important jobs–their compensation should be at least equal to the median income. Even at that point, half of all workers (many of whom are doing jobs that aren’t as valuable) will be earning more than teachers.
Let’s not forget there are many people in our schools who aren’t officially classified as teachers. Their contributions to the lives of our children must also receive greater compensation. Raising teacher salaries to the median income would help raise the salaries of other professionals who do critical work for far less than they deserve.
Some of you may be wondering how society could pay for what would in some cases be huge salary increases. My honest answer to that is I don’t care. At some point, we must do the morally right and fair thing by those who educate our children. Personally’ I would raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations. But how we gurantee teachers a median income isn’t the point of this post. All that matters here is understanding that teachers deserve a median income for their locality.