Should teachers be paid more?

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There are many remedies to cure the sleep deprivation of a typical high schooler. 

Most will go for coffee, served either scalding hot or ice cold. Some will opt for sugary energy drinks in order to keep their eyelids from drooping. Others may choose to just tough it out, struggling to stay awake for the long and arduous seven hours of a school day. 

I’ve personally discovered that, sometimes, the best cure for drowsiness is simply a good teacher. 

The words of a truly great teacher can work quicker than caffeine. Their voices cut a clear path through the cacophony in my brain; interesting lessons keep my head up as I fight through my post-lunch daze. 

From brightening up small moments to shaping entire lives, the work that teachers do is invaluable. The value and power that teachers hold is undeniable, but this sentiment might not always be reflected in teachers’ salaries. 

The endless care that teachers pour into their profession leads to the question of whether or not teachers are underpaid. 

In Michigan, the average salary for a teacher is roughly $62,000. 

This average doesn’t represent teachers in Michigan as a whole very well, as while many school districts pay their teachers roughly $40,000 on average, some pay up to $80,000. The average salary varies so greatly based on location, experience, and certification that it’s impossible to form an opinion based on that statistic alone. 

On a more specific note, an inexperienced teacher with a bachelor’s degree in Michigan has an average starting pay of about $36,000, and this is where one of the big issues in teachers’ salaries becomes obvious.  

After years in college spent studying and accumulating thousands of dollars of student debt, the average teacher recieves a starting pay of a mere $36,000. 

Nobody teaches for the money, but it certainly doesn’t help that one could make much more by pursuing a different degree or not going to college at all. It’s hard to attract bright young teachers when the starting pay is as meager as it is. 

And once one gets a job as a new teacher, what’s next? It’s surely disheartening to pay off student loans and start a new life on a salary that, in some cases, is worth less than a year of tuition. 

Of course, there’s more to consider than just the starting wage. On the whole, teachers receive good benefits, from pensions and health benefits to a three-month summer vacation every year. 

For some, this is grounds to say that teachers are not underpaid at all. It’s grounds to say that while maybe teachers don’t have the best salary, their benefits surely make up for it. The benefits should be enough to convince people to continue teaching, right?

The statistics disagree. 

Over the last decade, the average salary has dropped by 12%. According to the Michigan Department of Education, the average teacher’s salary peaked in 2009 at around $63,000. 

Teachers often don’t even stay long enough to make this average salary. According to Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart, one in five teachers quits teaching before only five years; the paltry pay and long path to “average” quickly discourages them. 

While after decades upon decades teachers may be able to earn a more comfortable wage, those who work in poorer school districts or haven’t been teaching for long don’t last long enough to get there.

The overall state of teachers’ pay isn’t doing teachers or students any favors, and even so, the issue of teachers’ pay runs far deeper than just the numbers. A long history of social, political, and economic issues has led teachers to where they are today. 

And it would be impossible to discuss the topic of teachers’ salaries without mentioning what teachers actually do. 

Teaching doesn’t stop once the papers have been graded, the lessons planned, and the classes taught. While students relish in one-hour delays and half-days, teachers attend endless meetings. They spend their own money for supplies in the classroom; they may pay for everything from a grand library of books to basic needs such as tissues. They devote emotional energy into being around and helping kids all day long. 

Regardless of what teachers are paid, the value of teaching remains priceless.

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