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I WAS JUST THINKING: Teachers “Cain’t get no respect!” – Part II

Teachers love what they do but deserve better pay. History of low pay for teachers dates back to the 1930s. Photo Credit: iStock Getty Images.

By Norma Adams-Wade

Part I asked why teachers are paid so poorly, seemingly ignored by legislators, and basically treated like second-class citizens when compared to professionals with similar education and experience.

In Part I, an award-winning, 25-year veteran teacher who annually earned about $45,000 said of her engineer brother: “His bonus is more than my salary.” [Time magazine article]

In part II here, we are at the cusp of the new year 2022. This is where we, the public, can get active in new projects and goals. Let’s put making life, salaries and work environments better for teachers near the top of our list of things to do.

But first, let’s further explore more daily frustrations and emotional assaults teachers say they endure and have written about in teacher blogs and various media articles and interviews.

  1. Principals who retaliate if the teacher sends unruly students to the office instead of the teacher handling the student in the classroom.
  1. Recurring intercom announcements that disrupt classroom instruction.
  2. Not being allowed to give failing grades to students who do not perform.
  3. Being pressured to “teach to the test” rather than put individual learning above passing a test.
  4. Sharing a classroom with an alternating teacher who leaves behind a mess and fails to put desks back the way they were.
  5. Students who will behave at church but act like animals in school classrooms.
  6. Having to stay for after-school and extra-curricular activities but not receiving extra pay.
  7. While salaries stay the same, demands on teacher’s time have greatly increased; i.e., more meetings and less time to plan lessons and take breaks, more time dealing with students’ emotional issues, including homelessness and abuse at home.
  8. Dealing with the many chal- lenges that the coronavirus pandemic created.
Teachers have bills to pay
Teachers have bills to pay, too. Photo Credit: iStock Getty Images.

One abiding question is: how did this disdain for teachers develop? One available answer is sexism. Teachers largely are female and females notoriously are underpaid. Another theory is that teachers largely enter the field because they love teaching and helping youths, and are not in it for the money. Many educators agree that they did not become teachers for the money – but quickly add that more equitable paychecks are deserved.

How can the public help? Suggestions: all organizations and individuals should write letters and emails to their elected officials, urging that they increase teacher pay and improve work conditions. Also, on annual Teacher Appreciation Days, maybe instead of sending an apple or an energy drink, send a thank you card with money inside to help the teacher buy classroom supplies or simply a personal gift.

Another abiding question is will teaching become extinct? Maybe not, but researcher say it is becoming increasingly difficult to attract young, talented college graduates to teaching careers. Graduates are well-aware of the poor conditions and low pay, so they choose more lucrative fields. A solution that might attract these graduates? Make the pay more equitable with other fields. [[U. S. News & World Report]

Also, even with all the head- ache associated with health-care careers, researchers say nurses are paid higher than teachers. The National Center for Education Statistics reports that within the last three to four years, a reg- istered nurse (usually a female) annually earned $73,550, com- pared to the $56, 383 to $58,950 we mentioned in Part I as the average teacher salary. [Time Magazine]

Lastly, a number of lawmakers argue that the current status of teachers is just find: Their perks include that they get a summer break from teaching (even though a great number get second and third jobs), and that retirement and health benefits that teacher unions have negotiated seem satisfactory (on the surface).

Teacher unions and researchers counter that about 40 percent of teachers do not get social security – an oddity that dates back to the original 1935 Social Security Act, and involves state laws vs. federal laws. Texas is one of 15 states and the District of Columbia that chose not to accept when a 1950s offer was made to combine state pensions and federal social security. Many lawmakers felt the rejection would help avoid the threat of higher federal taxes. [www.TeacherPensions. org…and…]

So, again, how can you help in 2022? Get with your clubs, faith groups and various organizations – including individual letters and e-mails – and urge your lawmakers to do the right thing for teachers in 2022.

Norma Adams-Wade, is a proud Dallas native, University of Texas at Austin journalism graduate and retired

Dallas Morning News senior staff writer. She is a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists and was its first southwest regional director. She became The ] News’ first Black full-time reporter in 1974.
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