Low Funding Affects Teacher Salaries

Annalee Gorman, Mirada Staff

Each year, more and more students enter high school, and less teachers are able to accommodate them. Hundreds of school districts are under distress and frustrated with the current standing of teachers.

According to the National Education Association, teachers’ salaries (after adjusting to inflation) have decreased three percent from their previous earnings over the last decade. Nationally, the “teaching penalty” shows teachers earning 19 percent less than other education professionals.

This has increased over the past two decades from a two percent gap in 1994 to 17 percent since 2017.

Teachers’ salaries often make it difficult to pay off student debt or housing as not all school districts can accommodate their needs. Some school districts don’t pay teachers over the summer resulting in them having to take up a second job.

However, teachers do have a say in when and how they receive pay. According to the IRS, teachers can defer their pay and be paid in a ten month span or 12 months. Contrary to a ten month pay plan, a 12 month pay plan compensates for teachers who works summers and pays teachers for a whole year of teaching.

Since 2015, schools have faced budget cuts resulting in a steady decline of teachers. California, one of the more underfunded states for education, is suffering from these cuts. The search for teachers proves to be difficult for multiple school districts as California gets paid 20 percent less than other educational professionals according to California Teachers Association.

For example, as districts seek educators to replace the ones lost in the cuts, they discovered finding qualified teachers are hard to find. In 2016, the San Juan Unified School district held its first ever job fair in hopes of receiving 100 new fully certified teachers to fill empty spots.

Some of California’s solutions to the shortage are blended teaching programs that lower the requirements to become certified in order to quickly gain more educators. A survey done by the Learning Policy Institute showed that over 80 percent of California teachers were not fully qualified. In the Sacramento Unified School District 34 percent were not fully certified.

The absence of teachers impacts students and districts. Many classes are oversized and this trend will most likely as hiring more teachers to solve this problem is unlikely.

“Last year we were definitely understaffed for the students we had to start the year,” said Principal Brian Ginter.

Unlike some districts, San Juan Unified School District can place a cap on the number of students in a school, keeping our small class sizes.

Other districts, like the Los Angeles Unified School District, aren’t as lucky. About 34,000 teachers went on strike on Jan. 19 until Jan. 24, demanding more staff, and higher pay. Over 40 percent of those existing teachers were not fully certified.

Lured by higher pay, less students are majoring or even considering jobs in education. Others leave because of the working conditions such as under-staffing and crowded classrooms.

Teachers report being concerned about the lack of respect for educators. They get paid less and don’t always have accommodating and supportive staff to create a healthy and relaxing work environment.

Seventy-three percent of trainee teachers said that they considered leaving the profession because of the demanding workload and inability to balance work life. About two-fifths of teachers quit after the first five years due to the demanding profession.

Approximately 90 percent of teacher vacancies are a result of teachers leaving. One third of those are from retirement and two thirds are from mid-age teachers quitting, for reasons other than retirement.

According to  the U.S. Department of Education, many of these reasons are from the dissatisfaction of working conditions and the feeling being unheard. About eight percent leave teaching annually, and another eight percent move to other jobs in education.

Less people than ever are devoting their studies to education. Without changes in the workplace and teacher curriculum, the teacher drought will persist.