As the minutes ticked down from 8:45 a.m., students began to pile up in the third floor hallway of Fenway High School, wondering where their math teacher was. Although they were glad to have extra time before the start of class, the students were beginning to feel anxious when Chadwick Johnson finally reached the top of the stairs. Johnson arrived 10 minutes late to his 9th grade Algebra 2 class. His reason: he was attending a nearby protest for teachers’ rights.
The protest Johnson attended was for a contract of teacher rights and for the improvement of the schools. This includes smaller class sizes, enough desks for the students, full time librarians and nurses—and higher pay. According to The Washington Post, 73 percent [of Americans] have expressed that they would support public school teachers in their community if they went on strike for higher pay.
The amount that teachers make has always been a debated topic. Although it is true that most teachers in Boston are fortunate enough to live comfortably, it is no secret that the same cannot be said for other states. With the recent teacher protests across the country, national teacher wage inequality is rising to the surface. For example, according to CNBC, teachers in Oklahoma earn an annual mean wage of $42,460, while teachers in Alaska can earn up to $82,020.
Although our local teachers do get paid well, they still face challenges, especially with Boston’s high cost of living. Boston is one of the most expensive cities in the U.S., and it’s catching up with the teachers.
Rodolfo Morales is currently a principal for the Phineas Bates Elementary School in Roslindale. He began his educational career at the Hurley K-8 Dual Language School and at the Hernandez School as a teacher, then moved his way up to his principal title. As a former teacher and principal, Morales understands the financial struggle of a teacher, both from a personal and administrative point of view.
“There have been some big shifts in Boston, including the pandering to affluent transplants,” Morales said. “This has made it challenging for many lifelong Bostonians to stay in Boston. Gentrification has hit the city hard. It seems that each year, I know fewer and fewer teachers that can afford to stay in the city.”
While many BPS teachers’ salaries fall within the $80,000-$100,000 range, a study by research site SmartAsset estimated that rent for the average two-bedroom apartment in Boston costs nearly $40,300 per year. This means that a single renter will need an income of at least $143,800. There are many people who believe all teachers deserve more than this.
Siri Carr is a teacher at Match Middle School. She has worked as a teacher for three years, and earns $52,500. Although she earns a comfortable salary, Carr believes that a teacher’s work is worth more than they often earn.
“I think teachers should be paid on par with how much doctors are paid, because I think there are a lot of parallels in our work,” Carr said. “We both work long and hard hours, and our jobs work with the public.”
Morales recognizes the teachers in his school who go above and beyond in their job.
“I have teachers that enter the building with the custodian who opens the doors at around 7 a.m. I then have teachers that stay until the doors are locked after 7 p.m.,” he said.
Johnson, along with many more of the Fenway faculty, stays in school after hours, meets with students during lunch and even comes in early to help those who are struggling in class. It is teachers like these who prove to the population how important teachers are.
Students who grow and mature through the help of their teachers have sympathy for them. They too agree with the notion that teachers deserve more than they get. Vladimira Amado is one of these students.
“I don’t think they get paid enough for what they do, especially the teachers that cover more than one class,” she says.
However, despite these challenges, there are still people who enter the teaching field, passionate about education. Jocelyn Cespedes, for example, wants to become a teacher. Her plan is to become an accountant to be able to raise enough for savings and insurance, then study to become a second grade teacher. The way she plans to jump these hurdles demonstrates a teacher's persistence.
The recent protests in California, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona and Colorado have all brought up a messy yet important issue. How do you put a price on the education of America’s future? The truth is you can’t, and the patient and devoted teachers in our schools deserve more. So the next time you see your teacher, say thank you, because it is well earned.