By Ava Francis-Hall
In Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia, and most recently Kentucky, tensions have been building as teachers have walked out of their classrooms throughout spring months to strike, protesting their low salaries and benefits. Novato High School teachers discussed their opinions on the walkouts, and how these teachers represent a constant struggle in the teaching profession.
These states have all experienced teacher walkouts or strikes to protest their low wages and benefits. According to Brookings, teachers are paid 30 percent less than other educated workers in the country. Since the 2008 recession, education funding has not been increased, and teachers are feeling the cut as many no longer receive appropriate raises.
Jason Searle, the AP Euro teacher here at Novato High expressed his opinions on the teacher walkouts.
“I definitely think that teachers will never make a lot of money, but at the same time, in certain places, it's not even a livable wage,” he said. “Teachers in Arizona, and then teachers in midwestern states with similar issues, most of them are making forty thousand a year, which you obviously can't live in Marin on that salary, and our salaries are better than that, but not significantly better than that.”
The teacher salaries in Marin differ from Northern to Southern Marin. Mill Valley middle school teachers receive an average salary of about $76,000, whereas a San Rafael City Schools teachers would earn an average of $62,000 including benefits.
Compare that to the average salary of a West Virginia middle school teacher, whose average salary is $44,000. This dramatic disparity has multiple determining factors, such as surrounding wealth and federal budget for education. However, one commonality that runs through all states is the difference between salaries among jobs that require equal education.
“I mean, to be a teacher you basically need six years of college education and they're making a fraction of what many people are doing, what many people in other fields are doing, essentially like a trade skill or junior college,” said Searle.
Teachers are shaping future leaders and problem solvers, yet they make an average of 17 percent less than a similarly educated professional who will not have a fraction of the impact that a teacher has.
However, some improvements have been made. After a 10-day teacher strike in West Virginia, lawmakers granted a 5 percent raise. Threats of walking out has scared many lawmakers and top state officials into making an effort to fix this pressing problem.
English teacher Kathryn Korff believes in the success of these teacher strikes.
“I think that teacher strikes are successful and that teachers pay is way behind where it should be. It’s sad that it's coming down to this but it's nice to see across the country, teachers striking and having their pay raised because of it,” said Korff.
Novato High math teacher, Michelle Hausler expressed that if she were in those teachers’ positions, she would have protested as well.
“Low-working conditions for teachers also equals bad working conditions for students. As a teacher, my highest priority is making sure my students can learn,” Hausler said. “My students can’t learn in a condition where I can’t teach.”