Low teacher compensation is not a new issue in the United States, but within the last couple of years, it is becoming more urgent. It not only affects the current teachers trying to make a living, but also future generations by making it difficult to live off of a teaching career.
Timothy Wall, director of the School of Education, said 18% of Northwest students majoring in education despite the compensation that challenges the position. Northwest started out as a teaching school in 1905, preparing students for a career in education. Even though Northwest has broadened and started allowing other degrees, it still prides itself with its education program.
“I believe our reputation for high-quality educator preparation, coupled with a 100% placement rate in employment, helps us attract amazing future teachers and leaders. Plus, we have the best faculty in America,” Wall said.
Missouri is the sixth worst state in paid salary for teachers with an average of $51,557, according to a study done in 2022 by usafacts.org. Around 8,000 Missouri teachers don’t even meet that average and make less than $38,000 a year. Ninety seven percent of teachers admit that their salary is insufficient to live off of.
Missouri’s governor and legislature have proposed a temporary solution, increasing the minimum salary from $25,000 to $38,000. The state will also provide funds to support 70% of salary costs within the program, the remaining would need to be covered by local school districts.
This problem is not only restricted to Missouri, it affects schools across the nation. In 28 states, college educated teachers are paid a teacher wage penalty from 2% all the way up to 32.7%, meaning that the average wage paid to employed workers in a specific occupation in the area of the intended employment is less than the wage paid to cover employees.
Logan Lightfoot, superintendent of Maryville R-II School District, said based on what state he worked in, the actions taken to fix this pay gap changed.
“What Missouri has done as far as raising the minimum salary is a good start. I worked as a superintendent in Nebraska, and they focused more on a local scale rather than state wide,” Lightfoot said.
In 2021, The Teaching Salary Project administered a survey to 1,200 classroom teachers to see how many teachers needed to have a second job to financially support themselves. The outcome of that survey was that 82% of those teachers had to work two jobs. Of those teachers, 53% needed more than two jobs to support themselves.
On top of the low salary, in most school classrooms, teachers are required to supply their classroom with school mandated utensils. Ninety percent of teachers spend their own money to provide students with required supplies, according to the National Education Organization.
“I think that It has been a long time coming issue, and it won’t go away that quickly,” Lightfoot said.
Students can help by bringing this issue to the attention of local and state decision makers.
“We should press our decision makers and policymakers to find a systemic, long-term approach to teacher salaries in Missouri education and higher education organizations,” Wall said.