Jacob Goodwin: How Can Anyone Afford to Teach Anymore?
Writing for The Progressive, teacher Jacob Goodwin points out the financial challenges that come with entering the teaching profession.
People who go into teaching are taking on the same level of debt as other college graduates (or more), yet they are receiving nowhere near the same financial benefits. The typical U.S. graduate with a four year degree walked away with their diploma and $29,417 in debt in 2022. In my home state, the average debt for a bachelor’s degree topped the nation at an astounding $39,928.
Undoubtedly, this economic reality of the teaching profession is having an impact on teacher prep programs, which are seeing a drastic reduction in the number of enrollees. This in turn means fewer new teachers entering the profession. When the cost of a degree is paired with the “teacher pay penalty,” to use EPI’s terminology, the math is undeniable: politicians are shortchanging teachers.
Teachers are being paid roughly seventy cents on the dollar for their labor. If most other jobs had this kind of wage disparity during a labor shortage, employers would increase wages to attract qualified professionals into the field. Instead, what we’re seeing are rightwing activists using fear tactics, book bans targeting Black and LGBTQ+ histories, and direct threats to the livelihood of teachers in an attempt to erode confidence in public schools. These attacks have a high price: the financial future of educators.
In my more than a decade of working in public schools, I can attest to the fact that teachers are selfless. But we can only carry so much for so long. We’re only human. It’s time we exclaim with a collective and unified voice: Pay teachers more! Local, state and federal governments must invest in public educators now. We cannot afford to balance society’s books on the backs of teachers.