Adult Learning

Teacher Preparedness and Prohibitive Costs

Last month, I wrote an article for TER which explained proposed budget cuts to education. One area that suffered, in particular, was teacher preparedness programs.
Like with all certifications, whether you’re a nurse or a real estate agent, you must keep your certificate current by completing continuing education credits. On the surface, this doesn’t seem like a “big deal”; however, in some states, the costs are extremely prohibitive, especially on a teacher’s salary.
The Financial Strain of Being a Teacher
I am a non-traditional teacher, working with online students from a few different states. I am now in the process of renewing some of those certifications, specifically, the state of Virginia. Unlike, Pennsylvania, where I hold my initial cert, the costs are great and the guidelines are murky at best. One of the requirements is up to 6 credits worth of graduate-level coursework, which must be completed every 5 years. A college class, in general, costs anywhere from $500 – $1000 per credit.  To complete these 6 credits is deemed the best way to obtain the points necessary for renewal since there’s little room for gray area. While many schools and organizations do reimburse teachers for expenses like these, some do not. Moreover, if concerns are raised regarding prohibitive costs, the loss of your job is often threatened.
Now, if we pair the costs of certificate and degree maintenance with rent/mortgage costs, student loans, and other living expenses,  it can be quite a lot. Not to mention, that the majority of teachers also purchase school supplies straight from their own pockets. I, as it turns out, have a second job which provides me income enough to make this work. I am lucky. The issue that I take with these costs is that they can be prohibitive and are discriminatory. Though most teachers may not fall under the poverty level in terms of income, many are scraping by living paycheck to paycheck, as it is.
We, in America, ask a lot of our teachers, yet, teachers do not receive the support or respect that I feel they deserve. In another article written for TER, it was stated that today, most teachers feel less respected by students, parents, and administrators than they did 20 years ago. As a teacher, myself, I share this sentiment.
The largest problem with creating guidelines for certification upkeep and teacher preparedness that is expensive is that some teachers will simply be priced out. While teachers should be kept up-to-date on new trends in education, new policy, and best practices, teachers should not be forced into further dire financial straights just to keep their job.
An Arizona Educator and Low Teacher Salaries
A story covered by TODAY, discussed Elisabeth Milich an Arizona educator who posted her pay online, sparking outrage. In addition, the teacher strike in West Virginia has also called into question whether or not teachers are compensated fairly. As a teacher living in Pittsburgh, Pa, with a Master’s degree and with 7 years experience in the field, I make far lower than the national average. In truth, my annual salary as an educator is not much more than Ms. Milich’s.
While a lot of people may believe that teachers should make more money, many still chide teachers and claim that they make far too much. The fact that teacher preparation programs exacerbate a teacher’s already tight budget, adds fuel to the fire and may be one reason why many teachers are leaving the field.
Most teachers I know, myself included, often feel over-taxed, with far more work than they are able to handle. To be a teacher often requires putting in long hours and taking work home at night and on the weekends. In addition, most teachers are expected to attend and assist with sports, clubs and other student activities where they receive no additional compensation.
The Washington Post reported on the concerns about teacher salaries with their article, Think teachers aren’t paid enough? It’s worse than you think. They reported that the teacher wage gap has actually gotten worse and has increased from -1.8% in 1994 to -17% in 2015. Moreover, public-sector teachers actually saw a decrease of about $30 per week from their paychecks from 1996 to 2015.
Not in it for the money
Most see teaching as a calling. It is a challenging job, and it’s hard work! But, a lot of the time, it can be very rewarding. No one goes into education to “get rich”. It’s definitely not about the money. However, teachers need to see a close in the wage gap. They need to see salary and wages that are livable. And, they need programs and continuing education options that are affordable and inclusive.


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