By Jacob Asbell
Teachers are much more than average. They often go above and beyond expectations to make sure our children are successful learners. Yet we continue to pay teachers below average salaries.
This has forced many educators to take second jobs to survive, and ultimately has been one of the largest contributing factors to the teacher shortage in this country.
I am one of those “average” teachers. I make high school students into college bound dreamers through my AVID class — Advancement Via Individual Determination. Like most teachers, I work extra jobs to make ends meet.
And like most, I’m not sure how much longer I can continue at my dream job when I can’t afford to achieve any of my other dreams, such as saving for retirement or buying a home.
As an educator, I spend an average of 50 hours a week teaching, planning and grading, along with a few other responsibilities around campus. Then after taxes and health care costs, my yearly salary is barely over $28K. It’s enough to pay the bills and buy food for my family of three.
So I spend an average of six hours a week coaching soccer for extra money. Then on weekends, I work as a candy chef for an average of 10 more hours. I typically work 66 hours a week in order to give my family a better lifestyle — and my story is common.
Like many of my peers who are also parents, I sometimes don’t get to spend more than a few hours with my child(ren) every week, because I’m forced to choose between financial instability or the threat of becoming an absentee father.
Florida ranks 42nd in the nation for teacher pay. In Leon County, teachers make an average of $44K per year, ranking 48th among 67 districts. This year the Leon County Teacher’s Association proposed a base salary increase of $2,885 with an additional $1,500 the following year. However, negotiations stalled as the district offered a $1,000 raise, and negotiations will likely remain stalled considering only one side of the negotiating table has a time limit.
HB 7055, and education bill passed this session, will take effect next year. Unless LCTA — our teachers union — reaches 50 percent participation, the union will be disbanded and all prior negotiations discarded. Afterward, Leon teachers will lose any collective power to negotiate future contracts.
So what can we do? Teachers: Please join the union, or we may risk losing any future pay increases, which would more than cover the cost of union dues. Parents: If you truly believe teachers deserves a more substantial raise, please let the superintendent and the school board know. Stakeholders: If we truly care about our educators, then the raises will show them an appreciation rarely afforded them. Though, neither of the proposed raises would be enough to replace the income from either of my extra jobs, it’s at least a start.
Leon County teachers make a difference. They make readers and writers, leaders and life-long learners. But what they don’t make is enough money.