On teacher pay

10635710_10152586250603926_8540224056547831404_nI 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.

(Not complaining.)

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.

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Luther M. Siler

Teacher, writer of words, and local curmudgeon. Enthusiastically profane. Occasionally hostile.

23 thoughts on “On teacher pay

  1. Are all states that bad? I know my mom got raises for education and experience in Ohio, but she retired over a decade ago, things may be different now. Why would the state mandate something like that? I can see minimum pay, but not putting a ceiling on it. Is it so poor districts aren’t at a disadvantage when looking for teachers?


    1. Indiana very badly wants teaching to be something that idealistic 22-year-olds do for a few years, not something grown-ups do for a living. I believe the legislature views public schools as money wasted on black people that would be better off making profit for white people.

      It is very much worse here than in most other states.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think things are quite that bad here in Michigan, but teachers are still not paid enough. And though are classrooms are grossly oversized, many teachers can’t get jobs because there aren’t enough available. Our education system across the board frustrates me. Our schools need more money, not less. Our teachers deserve better pay, bonuses, incentives for a job well-done. The system needs to be managed better, the money spent in the right places, but cutting funding is essentially cutting our own throats. In the future.


  3. This is one of the reasons why I left Indiana. The school district where I’m at now offers pay raises and a higher salary for getting a higher education.

    I think you have briefly written about this before because you mentioned that your mentee will never make as much as her awesome mentor! 🙂


  4. I think it’s outrageous some of the salaries retailers and grocery stores have now without a degree. I mean, when my cousin told me her salary I was making more than her as an assistant produce manager. It makes me wonder where or properties lie now in society. Maybe that’s why we’re overweight and stupid. Lol not all of us, but it is leading in that direction.


  5. Yep! The new slant in Tn seems to be start teachers out at a higher rate, don’t pay for additional credentials, and begin taking away pay from seasoned educators. Do you have a masters and almost 20 years of experience? Great. You’ll make $4,000 more than a first year teacher. Oh, health coverage is now $800 per month too. Ha. That’s basically 1/2 your monthly income.


  6. Teachers here in British Columbia (Canada) are deadlocked with the Province right now over salaries and class sizes, and in a very short few weeks it’s gonna get ugly.


  7. I tend to read all the teaching posts and pass on some of the others – and I’ve never been a teacher. I’m in total awe of anyone who can handle more than six kids at once (the limit I insisted on when I did any voluntary work in schools). I think the imbalance in pay you outline above is scandalous. I don’t know it’s relevant, but any career that has in the past been dominated by women will tend to have a lower monetary value on it.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. come to Western Australia – we pay senior teachers about AU$100k a year (which is about US$93K at the moment (mind you, they still complain about that too, so I guess money doesn’t buy you happiness))

    I’ve always thought it ridiculous that the very thing that sets up the future economy is not paid well in most countries..


  9. Be lucky you can start as a teacher in any state. Here in Ontario, Canada, the unions pushed the government to putting in place regulations that (1) prioritizes those who pass an interview where experience is not considered, (2) slows the progress to full salary for a new teacher, since it’s three years minimum before they can teach full time, and (3) it now resets you to zero if you have to move districts for any reason — including your spouse gets transferred — no matter how many years of tenure you had in your last board. Oh, and they are about to renege on their promise of a raise after two years of frozen salary increases that’s in the last contract because they only have enough money to challenge Rob Ford’s election promises.


  10. Glad you stopped by my little blog. I had no clue about the educational system in India, I have through the months been writing with quite some people from India but they are here in wordpress, or actually I should say that wordpress is in India and everywhere almost. Anyways, I do know about the culture and to me it seemed they, and when I say they to me it seems only the rich. I don´t see in India unlike other countries, to be born in a middle lower class family and be able to study for a degree, but maybe you can correct me on that. What I have seen is much of my Indian friends first they don´t have money problems, and second with regards to the topic on hand they all seem to study and work in 2 categories: The IT sector and Medicine. Specially the ones in the IT sector do make quite a good living. Just a thought, maybe I´m wrong. It was very interesting to read abut you an Indian that works as a teacher, sure must be frustrating to have been studying so much and earn the same as a fast food person, but why would they make those laws? That is my question. It makes people that want to teach, and education is key for some kind of success, why would the government decentivise those who want to teach and help others.


  11. It’s freaking unbelievable that people actually think this is how a society should function. If there’s no hope for the human race, it’s not because of the younger generation. It’s because of the idiots in charge (and us for letting them be in charge). Sometimes I really want to go live on another planet.

    Thank for you stopping by my blog. I’m happy to meet you!

    Liked by 1 person

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