A Challenging Job for Very Low Pay

Even as West Virginia teachers claim victory in the 9-day strike that shut down every school district in the state and resulted in unanimous passage of a 5 percent pay raise, the challenges of teaching in the state remain.

Dana Goldstein offers this insight in a piece in the New York Times:

West Virginia has the nation’s fourth-highest unemployment rate and an opioid overdose death rate that is more than three times the national average. All of this plays out in the classroom.

“I can’t tell you how many students we have being raised by grandparents because of parents’ drug addictions,” said Jay O’Neal, a seventh-grade English teacher and a leader of the strike. “It’s just part of a broader problem teaching here, dealing with the effects of poverty.”

At Mr. O’Neal’s school, Stonewall Jackson Middle School in Charleston, teachers use their own money to stock a closet for students whose clothes are dirty or do not fit, or who come in wearing shorts when it is freezing outside. At faculty meetings each year, they draw some children’s names off an “angel tree” and provide them with Christmas gifts, because otherwise they would not get any.

A recent study indicates that teachers earn between 20 and 30 percent less than similarly educated peers. So, you have low pay relative to similar training and you have circumstances that are extremely challenging. West Virginia teachers will now see their pay improve somewhat, which is a good first step. The schools they serve still need adequate resources.

Shouldn’t those taking on challenges of this magnitude be among the best paid and have the best resources at their disposal? Should it really require a 9-day strike to begin to see proper compensation for our nation’s educators?

For more on education politics and policy, follow @TheAndySpears


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