As my high school experience nears an end, I am constantly being asked which educator of mine was my favorite. And yet, each time I’m asked this question, I am left without an answer.
Each teacher I have had the pleasure (or displeasure) of learning under throughout my years in school has impacted my growth as both a student and individual, whether it be for better or for worse. Some have inspired me with the passion they infuse into everything they do while others have pushed me to my breaking point and to, I cringe to admit, more than a few mental breakdowns. Some have garnered my interest in the fields I hope to pursue later in life, and others have crushed any glimmer of intrigue a subject had the potential to hold for me. Regardless, I would not be who or where I am today without each and every one of them -- a reality that is the same for every student.
Although teachers play such a crucial role in the development of a child, in the United States, the salaries of teachers have continuously been decreasing for the past 30 years, leaving education as one of the least lucrative professions. For instance, in 1970, there was only a 2,000 dollar difference between the starting income of a lawyer and that of a teacher in the state of New York. However, today, the average initial wages of these professions differ drastically as the starting salary of a lawyer in New York is 160,000 dollars in contrast to the 45,000 dollar salary of a beginning teacher.
Despite the constant complaints and debates over the shortcomings of the American public education system, the average salaries of educators are on a steady decline and the education budget seems to be the first to dip into when resources are needed for expenses in other areas. This can already be seen in the Trump administration, which has cut the education budget by 9.2 billion dollars and removed about 30 programs from the education system, greatly restricting the amount of money that can annually be allotted to teacher salaries.
In order to support themselves, many teachers have to resort to extreme measures that take time away from their teaching and in turn, create an ineffective education system. As one in ten American teachers have a second job for financial reasons, educators are rendered unable to provide their full attention to their jobs as teachers and therefore unable to teach their students to the best of their ability. Along with this, as the education budget is already so minimal, about 90 percent of teachers buy supplies out-of-pocket, increasing their already present financial strain.
This not only reduces the quality of the students’ education, but also dissuades students from entering a career in education due to fear of financial instability: a dangerous chain reaction that will only continue to deteriorate the American education system as less people have the drive to educate.
Teachers have arguably one of the most important jobs in the country. Let’s act like it.