The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Opinion

May 9, 2014

Editorial: Underpaid educators are deserving of appreciation

Teaching wasn’t featured on any of the eight seasons of Discovery Channel’s “Dirty Jobs,” which detailed the lives of laborers who make a living in highly unpalatable ways.

Educators, however, might argue their profession belongs among the undesirable ranks of the worm dung farmer or avian vomitologist. Just imagine the potential mess created by a 9-year-old boy who runs himself ragged at recess following a hearty lunch. Or the creepy-crawliness of a head lice outbreak. Or the snotty consequences of flu season.

Even without the potential ickyness that accompanies all groups of small children, teachers have a really tough job. It’s equal parts baby sitter, social worker and educator – three things most of us can’t imagine dealing with on a daily basis.

But our educators do, with the grace, compassion and commitment possessed only by those drawn to work in the classroom.

Too often that commitment isn’t rewarded by compensation.

A study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found the average starting salary for a teacher is $30,377. Meanwhile, computer programmers start at $43,635, public accounting professionals begin at $44,668 and registered nurses start at $45,570. And the more years an educator puts into their career, the wider that gap gets. According to the Economic Policy Institute, teachers’ inflation-adjusted weekly wages have risen just 0.8 percent, compared to the 12 percent growth of other college graduates. The average earnings of workers with at least four years college are more than 50 percent higher than the average earnings of a teacher, reports from the National Education Association show.

Opponents of increasing teacher wages argue that educators have only a six- to seven-hour workday and get summers off, making it reasonable that they aren’t paid as well as other professionals. That’s a sentiment with no basis in reality. Teachers spend countless hours at home at night and on weekends preparing lesson plans, grading work and more. During the summer, teachers are working second jobs, taking classes or providing instruction during summer school.

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