Teachers in America: A present-day overview
Wednesday, October 24, 2018
USA Today’s story on days in the life of 15 teachers has ignited serious debate. But it’s not about teacher shortage or hardships, because we know these problems exist.
It’s about a profession in crisis and whether we can do anything to save them. Each story is harrowing. There is no escape from the gloom and hardships our public school teachers face today.
Earlier this year, teachers in six states walked off their jobs to protest the lack of education funding and their compensations. They highlighted the terrible plight of the K-12 system and raised awareness for their cause.
In a new development, the nation is talking about their pressures and frustrations. How much real impact they have had in policy changes remains to be seen. But USA Today’s story in this perspective is touching.
There are more than 3 million K-12 public school teachers who are experiencing some of the worst wage stagnation of all-time in the field.
They are disheartened about being unheard, misunderstood and disrespected. Government mandates, assessment-based teaching, helicopter parenting, lack of resources and training all contribute to their plight.
Nothing points more to the crisis than the poll that shows most Americans do not want their child to become a teacher. Enrollment in college teacher education programs has dropped 35 percent between 2009 and 2014.
It is disheartening indeed, and a look at the numbers shows why. Since the recession, the average national salary for K-12 teachers has decreased by more than 4 percent. 18 percent of them must hold a second job to make ends meet.
Nine in 10 teachers spend close to $500 a year of their own money to buy teaching supplies. We can see why almost 30 percent of teachers change professions within five year, with 8 percent leaving every year. Two-thirds quit before retirement.
The result is a severe teacher shortage. Education in crisis means we are a nation in crisis.
Teacher walkouts came with demands to increase salaries and fully fund insurance benefits. Federal and state lawmakers derided their protests by saying that they were disrespecting their profession and their students.
But those teachers received overwhelming support from the public who believe that our teachers are underpaid and unappreciated. They are on the frontlines when it comes to fighting illiteracy, poverty, the achievement gap, the opioid crisis and school shootings.
Public support shows a shift in the perception of the profession, which caused lawmakers to approve limited wage increase in several states. But those victories have hardly made any ripples in the large pool of uncertainty that has made the lives of teachers so hard.
As they continue to fight against injustice and for their students, we must step up and impact change for our future generations.
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