Editorial: Teachers are underpaid and overworked

The Editorial Board

Teachers may have one of the hardest jobs in the world with the smallest monetary reward, at least in the United States. The national average salary for a teacher is a mere $58,950, which is much less in states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia, where teachers have been striking for better pay.

Many think that the “three months off” makes up for any lack of pay. In reality though, many teachers get second jobs at places like Walmart or 7-Eleven because the monthly pay they receive from teaching is not enough to sustain their family. In fact, this trend of moonlighting, or getting a second job, is at its highest rate in Texas with 40 percent of teachers compared to the national average of 16 percent (U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics).

Furthermore, teachers are in charge of paying for much of their supplies and classroom decorations. Yes, the school might provide a few supplies, but all the inspirational posters on the walls, as well as that pencil and highlighter you borrowed and never gave back, are on the teacher. In all, it just does not make sense how a profession that requires so much post-secondary education (a bachelor degree and state licensure exam) does not get paid the same amount as other occupations requiring the same amount of education.

In addition to being underpaid, teachers often combat a huge workload as many play the role of teacher, tutor, club sponsor, chaperone, volunteer and hall monitor, not to mention all the paperwork we hear of some teachers doing. In fact, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that American teachers spend more time in the classroom than most other countries’ teachers — almost 1,000 hours per year, 300 hours more than the OECD average.

On top of all that classroom time, teachers face increased pressure to make sure all students pass state-mandated tests because if they don’t, the school’s ranking plummets. Remember that under all this stress and work, teachers still, sometimes, somehow, have to work a second job.

So yes, underpaid and overworked.

Teachers absolutely need to get a better salary, and they need to be able to put their students’ education first, over any paperwork or other role in the school. This has to be done for not only the teachers’ health and wellbeing, but also for the sake of educating this nation’s future workers, leaders — and teachers.