Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Teachers deserve higher wages

Teachers should not have to work second jobs to make ends meet
Matthew Harrison
(Daily Collegian File Photo)

In West Virginia, teachers are rejoicing over their recent victory. After a nine-day strike that demonstrated West Virginia’s impressive ability to unionize, the state Senate has agreed to meet their demands. All five of their demands were met, including “defeating an expansion of charter schools, killing a proposal to eliminate seniority and scuttling a paycheck-protection bill (aimed at weakening unions by taking away their right to deduct union dues through payroll collection), as well as a mechanism to fix the health-insurance crisis and a raise big enough to matter.” The West Virginia teachers are among the lowest-paid educators in the nation and lack a proper labor contract with the state. With the unanimous passing of the new bill, teachers feel as if their hard work is finally recognized by the government.

Oklahoma is taking a page from West Virginia’s book as well. Oklahoma teachers haven’t received a pay raise in the past 10 years and are currently ranked 49th in the nation for teacher’s salaries. The teachers are currently on their ninth day of a statewide walkout and working to pass legislation that will increase wages of public employees and add about $3.3 billion for educational spending for the next three years. The walkout is in support of an end to the tax cuts that have taken millions away from academic spending and forced many schools to shorten their weeks to four days. The teachers aren’t giving up on the students in the meantime. They’re still delivering cafeteria lunches to hungry students, coaching sports teams and organizing lessons for parents to instruct their children. Much like West Virginia, Oklahoma simply wants the respect from the government that they deserve.

Teachers are a pivotal part of our future. They help raise and shape the minds of the future generation and oftentimes, leave a profound impact. Ask around, most people can name at least one teacher who changed their life for the better. Yet, a recent twitter survey shows that less than 50 percent of the people surveyed believed teachers deserve a raise. Many people believe that any additional budget or tax increases should benefit specialized positions such as surgeons or engineers. Their salaries often don’t account for the time teachers spend in their classroom before and after school hours, and uncompensated time and energy is a reality for most teachers because of meetings, grading and helping students succeed academically. In states such as Oklahoma and West Virginia, the reality of this lack of compensation is even more daunting; teachers often have to take second jobs to make ends meet.

Furthermore, for a developed country that prides itself on its educational abilities, we drastically underpay our teachers in comparison to the countries we compete with. For example, to compete with an educational success story, Finland, America would have to institute a, “10 percent raise for primary school teachers, an 18 percent raise in lower secondary, and a 28 percent raise for upper secondary school teachers.” The lack of suitable wages in American school systems have more consequences than we may think. The National Education Association found that “50 percent of new teachers leave the profession during the first five years of teaching, and 37 percent of teachers that do not continue teaching until retirement attribute low pay to their reasons for leaving.” As reflected in this research, many new teachers are changing occupations as they struggle to afford housing while paying off student debts. It is necessary to offer our teachers suitable wages and benefits because they are educating the future generation of America.

The steps teachers in Oklahoma and West Virginia have taken are necessary for improving our nation’s educational system. The victories they’ve been rewarded in legislation are for their hard-fought efforts. They have single-handily paved the way for a conversation for better working conditions for all public employees. Teachers hold a special place in our lives, and it’s time they’re recognized for their dedication.

Chloe Lindahl is a Collegian Columnist and can be reached at [email protected].

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    NITZAKHONApr 18, 2018 at 9:52 am

    As someone married to a teacher, I certainly recognize that teachers can be unsung heroes.

    But on the flip side, public school teacher salaries are drawn from the taxpayer. So nice of you… generous with money taken from people at the point of a gun.