I talk about teaching an awful lot on this site, right? Enough that there are people who have admitted to me that they regularly skip past posts on the topic. (Which, for the record, is fine. I’m going to write about whatever the hell I want; you, in turn, have the right to ignore whatever the hell you want.)
One common subject connected to teaching that I have more or less completely ignored is teacher pay. I can’t think of a single post that I’ve devoted to the topic, and I don’t even think it’s come up tangentially (other than “I don’t get paid enough for this shit” types of gripes) more than a couple of times. There are several reasons for this, chief among which being the fact that virtually everyone feels like they’re not paid enough for what they do. Do I think teachers are paid enough? No, I don’t, particularly in Indiana. Do I think it’s an especially winning issue to discuss a lot? No, not so much.
Here’s the thing, though, and I know I talked about this during my job hunt this summer: Indiana has effectively made it illegal (and that’s not hyperbole; it’s the literal truth) to pay me what I’m worth. It is illegal to tie raises to seniority, meaning that they can’t pay me for my experience. It is illegal to tie raises to education— ponder, for a moment, the amazing fact that teachers can’t make more money by getting advanced degrees— meaning that my not-one-but-two Master’s degrees are worth precisely bupkis to any school district that might be looking to hire me.
Now, I started teaching in my current district before all these laws kicked in, meaning that my current salary is grandfathered. I made a comfortable salary last year, and received a frankly scandalous raise when I changed jobs this year– I am absolutely not complaining about my current pay, but it’s not going to last long. I am not rich by any means, but if it weren’t for all these credit card debts hanging over my head from my twenties and my absurd level of student loan debt, I was making plenty of money to live well, if not extravagantly. Those other things are my fault; they don’t make my salary less.
I got as far as talking salary with one district during my interview process. They offered me twelve thousand dollars a year less than I was making last year– flatly impossible. Upon further investigation, the pay cuts at other districts would have ranged from six to ten thousand dollars.
Under current Indiana law, no new teacher will ever make what I make again. I know people who have been teaching for five years who still make starting teacher salary– around $32K. Once they’re in their thirteenth year, which I’m currently in, they’ll still be making right around that same $32K, although they’ll probably have managed a couple of one-or-two-percent district-wide shame raises during that time. But not anything meaningfully different once inflation comes into play.
I bring all this up for two reasons: one, I spent $600 on some new suit jackets tonight, a number that may jump to $800 if a navy blue jacket in my size that I liked comes in in the next couple of days. Those in the picture aren’t all new, but four of them are. I had to do this to meet my new boss’s expectations on how the folks in his office dress.
We went to Taco Bell for dinner. Taco Bell is hiring. They have a big sign– that I couldn’t get a picture of on account of I was driving– in their drive-thru, indicating that assistant managers can make up to $38,000 a year and building managers– they called it something else, but I don’t recall what– can make up to $50,000 a year.
Meaning that an assistant manager at a fast food restaurant can make $500 a month more than a starting licensed teacher– a job that, mind you, requires a college degree, which I doubt (correct me if I’m wrong) assistant managing a fast food restaurant does– and that a manager manager can make more than I did teaching last year, with two Master’s degrees and twelve years of teaching experience. And that, furthermore, the teachers will never reach those salary levels, because it is effectively illegal to give us raises.(*)
And I’m not trying to denigrate fast food employees here– I’ve done that job, and I have tried to never treat a fast food employee with anything less than perfect respect since, and keep in mind that I have a second job where I work behind a register right now— but god damn it you should make more teaching than you do at fucking Taco Bell. Fucking society depends on our asses. This is bullshit.
(*) I’m going to amend my earlier statement, because thinking about it I know that I’ve talked about the politics of teacher pay before– but I still think I’ve refrained from generalized “WE DOAN MAKE ‘NUFF MONEY” types of posts. It is not precisely illegal to give us raises– they can be tied to student test scores and evaluations and things like that, but the way the laws work it is trivially easy for districts to simply declare that they don’t have the money to pay us more– and the governor and the legislature are also trying to starve public schools of funds any way they can, so the districts are more often than not telling the truth.