Bella DeVaan Education Rebekah Entralgo Worker's Rights

Want More Teachers? Start Valuing Education

Too many lawmakers are happy to dole out subsidies for the rich and corporations while resisting pay increases for educators.
Jan. 22, 2019. UTLA teachers rally downtown to celebrate the end of the strike. Mike Chickey, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

By Rebekah Entralgo and Bella DeVaan / Inequality.org

As students return to the classroom, school districts across the country are facing a historic number of teacher vacancies – an estimated 300,000, according to the National Education Association (NEA), the largest U.S. teachers union.

Some states are particularly hard hit, with approximately 2,000 empty positions in Illinois and Arizona, 3,000 in Nevada, and 9,000 in Florida.

How are political leaders responding? A number of rural Texas districts have moved to a four-day school schedule, creating major hassles for working parents. A new Arizona law will no longer require a bachelor’s degree for full-time teachers. Florida is allowing military veterans to temporarily teach without prior certification. Florida’s Broward County recruited over 100 teachers from the Philippines.

These band-aid actions ignore the root causes of the teacher crisis: low pay and burnout.

 A new Economic Policy Institute report finds that teachers made 23.5 percent less than comparable college graduates in 2021. That’s the widest gap ever – despite the extraordinary challenges teachers have faced during the pandemic. The gap is even wider in some of the states with the largest teacher shortages. In Arizona, for example, teachers earned 32 percent less than non-teacher college grads in the state last year. Across the country, real wages for public school teachers have essentially flatlined since 1996.

When the NEA surveyed teachers earlier this year, 55 percent reported they plan to leave the profession sooner than planned. That number is even higher among Black (62 percent) and Hispanic/Latino (59 percent) educators, who are already underrepresented in the teaching profession. In the same survey, 91 percent of teachers point to burnout as their biggest concern, with 96 percent supporting raising educator salaries as a means to address burnout.

Some states are getting the message: In New Mexico, lawmakers have instituted minimum teacher salary tiers based on experience – beginning at $50,000 and maintaining a $64,000 median wage. They’re also aiming to codify annual 7 percent raises so that teachers don’t lose ground to inflation.

“These raises represent the difference of being on Medicaid with your family, the difference of having to have a second or third job or doing tutoring work on the side, the difference of driving the bus during the day and having to take extra routes for extracurriculars just to make ends meet,” said New Mexico teacher John Dyrcz in a recent interview with More Perfect Union. “Having this increased compensation flow down to the workers gives people dignity. It shows that their work is being respected.”

In other areas, teachers are harnessing their collective bargaining power to make their demands heard. Thousands of teachers in Ohio, Washington state, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. have gone on strike during the first weeks of the academic year.

The educators’ union in Columbus, Ohio demands a simple, public “commitment to modern schools”: not only pay raises but also smaller class sizes, decent air conditioning, adequate funding for the arts and physical education, and caps on numbers of periods taught in a row. Read one picketer’s sign: “You think we give up easy? Ask how long we wait to PEE!”

Meeting such demands requires public investment. And unfortunately, too many lawmakers favor lining the coffers of the wealthy instead of funding our school systems.

In 2021, the Columbus Dispatch estimates schools in the city lost out on $51 million to local real estate developers. In New York, an over $200 million reduction in school budgets has provoked public outcry in a city where luxury builders have pocketed well over $1 billion in tax breaks each year.

New York City Comptroller Brad Lander told council members their cuts were particularly puzzling, given that the city boasts $4.4 billion in remaining federal stimulus funds that must be spent by 2025. “Making cuts to individual school budgets at this moment is wrong for our students, for our teachers, and stands in the way of the equitable recovery our city needs,” Lander said.

On Thursday, the Columbus teachers union came to a “conceptual agreement” with the city’s schools, ending their strike. Let’s hope this is a sign of a turning tide. Through a relentless pandemic, vicious censorship of curricula, and surging inequality, we cannot continue to skimp on education while squandering our resources on the wealthy.

Rebekah Entralgo

Rebekah Entralgo is the Managing Editor for Inequality.org. You can follow her on Twitter @rebekahentralgo.

Bella DeVaan

Bella DeVaan is the Research and Editorial Assistant for Inequality.org. You can follow her on Twitter @bdevaan.

16 comments

  1. The law of supply and demand says that the salary of teachers should rise to meet the shortage.
    This does not apply to socialist schools.

  2. “Meeting such demands requires public investment. And unfortunately, too many lawmakers favor lining the coffers of the wealthy instead of funding our school systems.”

    This softball language needs to stop and get honest if anything really is to be done. “Unfortunately, too many [kleptocrats] favor lining the coffers of the [oligarchs] instead of funding [an educated citizenry]”.

    1. “in America the citizen has been transformed into a client, the worker into a consumer”. Christopher Lasch
      “the problem with Americans is not Orwellian it is huxleyan—americans love their oppression”. Neil Postman
      “well fed rats love their cage”. Heinrich Heine

  3. Too many lawmakers are happy to dole out subsidies for the rich and corporations while resisting pay increases for educators.

    “Too many [kleptocrats] are happy to dole out subsidies for [oligarchs] and [corporatocracy] while resisting pay increases for [the leaders of an educated citizenry].”

  4. US public schools =child abuse…..home schooled US children are far more competent as standardized tests show, same with private and catholic schools

  5. If you (correctly) understand “Neoliberalism” as nothing more than the newest, most deceptive form of the nazism with which our Masters have (always) sought to shackle us, you’ll also understand why our Masters are relentlessly robbing the entire 99 Percent of education.

    Actually the answer is quite simple: note the fact that educating slaves was a crime in the USian slave states.

    Why? Because educated slaves often become effective revolutionaries — note the Ruling-Class-terrifying example of Toussaint L’Ouverture — and the fact our Masters know we proletarians and peasants outnumber them at least 99:1.

    Therefore — since the ultimate purpose of nazism (especially when it is disguised as Neoliberalism) is the creation of a society in which there are (only) slaves and masters — our methodical dumbing-down is (entirely) predictable.

    And when you compare the USian Moron Nation to other national populations, you see the ecogenocidal magnitude of our Masters’ success: the fact we of the U.S. Working Class are (already) reduced to such (permanent) identity-politics stupidity, even the most minimal humanitarian change is impossible.

    Indeed to expect anything other than sadism and savagery from our Masters is an inescapably terminal combination of ignorance, stupidity and clinical delusion.

    And so it will remain until capitalism’s suicide by thermonuclear war or exhaustion of vital resources kills electric technology and terminates the present-day patriarchal capitalist death-cult.

    Which in all probability — because of the incurable wounds knowingly inflicted by patriarchy’s (intentional) rape of our Mother Earth and Abrahamic religion’s unanimous endorsement of ecogenocide and death as “spiritual progress” — will also mean the extinction of our entire species.

    1. USA is a matriarchy….”only in America has the dignity of the father ceased to exist”. Horkheimer /Adorno…..’amerikan males are feminized by the tranny of the school m’arm”. Daniel Boorstin
      “only in amerika is the father vestigial: the American mind and conscience is feminine”. Geoffrey Gorer…no accident amerikans immoral crude ugly—31% diagnosed mentally ill, most violent crime, non violent crime rape per capita all nations—do not expect much from immoral children

  6. In Finland, no child (including immigrants) is left behind in education. Teachers are paid the same as doctors.

    1. Teachers should be paid according to what parents are willing to pay. Some teachers will be paid less and some more according to demand.

    2. Thank you, Mr. Maddox.The Finnish teachers you cite are paid as teachers should be paid everywhere. But here in the U.S. they will never be adequately recompensed; our eternally nazified patriarchal Masters long ago vetoed any and all (real) education. Why? Because they view any learning beyond the indoctrination essential to maintain the productivity of the modern forms of slavery as subversive agitation. (As it indeed is, given the ecogenocidal tyranny of the theocratic Christonazi/capitalist white-male-supremacist plutocracy that has ever-more-brazenly ruled the USian Empire since our Masters bribed Ayn Rand and Barry Goldwater to popularize the doctrines Hitler propagated via “Mein Kampf.”)

  7. “In New York, an over $200 million reduction in school budgets has provoked public outcry in a city where luxury builders have pocketed well over $1 billion in tax breaks each year.”

    Ban private schools and this ceases to happen.

    1. Ban any competition to the state school monopoly. That should ensure less questioning of the welfare-warfare state.

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