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Are teachers underpaid?

Updated on April 14, 2012

I Believe Teachers are Underpaid!

I used to be a high school teacher before becoming a stay at home mom, so I'm a bit biased on this debate. I have yet to find another job in the area in which I live that requires a bachelor's degree and pays less than a teacher. One day while paying the bills, I began to realize that if my husband and I divorced, I would lose my car because my salary wasn't enough to cover rent, groceries, utilities, and a car payment. It's insane.

There are many problems with our nation's public school system. I saw that when I was teaching. I believe that we would get more quality educators if we would pay them more. Many good teachers quit and do something that pays more money. I was one of those teachers. I quit because my salary was too small to have paying daycare fees for 2 kids make any sort of sense at all.

Something else that the general population is unaware of is that most teachers spend around 20% of their salary on teaching materials. The government does not provide teachers with money to buy teaching supplies and education materials. As a teacher, I even bought a classroom set of novels from Barnes & Noble because the school lacked the funds to purchase the book I wanted to teach.

I know that some of you will think that teachers are over paid because they get summer vacation and their workday ends at 3:30 every day. But, what many people don't realize is that teachers work way past 3:30. It takes time to grade papers and prepare lessons. Many teachers work well past 5:00 in fact. There were many times that I was still grading papers at 10:00 at night. In addition to working late, being a teacher requires participation in extra curricular activities. Some school districts require teachers to attend all of the home football, basketball, and baseball games. Many people also believe that summer vacation is still 3 months, and that's not true either. The only full month teachers get of summer is July. Many teachers work till mid June and start back up in mid August. Also, I know a lot of teachers that teach summer school during their summer break because they need the money.

Image: Carlos Porto / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Teachers are Important to Modern Society, Pay Them Accordingly!

Teachers make all other professions possible. If it is a profession that is necessary for society to run smoothly (doctor, lawyer, astronaut, scientist, policeman, politician...you get the idea), rest assured that we would not have them without teachers.

Do You Think Public School Teachers Are Underpaid? - Sound Off Here

I know some states pay their teachers better than others. Also, tough school districts sometimes pay more because it's harder for them to get teachers. But, to give you a frame of reference when I last taught in 2005 I was paid $24,000 a year. And that's before health insurance costs and taxes. In my opinion, it is a disgrace for any position that requires a Bachelor's degree to be paid so low.

Are teachers underpaid?

Yes, pay them more!

Yes, pay them more!

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    • anonymous 3 years ago

      Here is the problem....a really bright high school physics teacher is paid on the same scale as a third grade teacher. Now, I totally value the third grade teacher, but there are WAY more people looking for that job than for the physics job....school districts are loathe to start a physics person higher on the step scale for fear of being sued...thus...you get some pretty crappy high school science and math teachers in poorer districts.

    • anonymous 4 years ago

      yes they are underpaid

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I make nothing and I use $1,500 of my money for class. I have to choose between necessities like new tires and food usually. My kids have nothing. It pays poverty level. I am a good teacher with no worksheets - only hands on lessons. Go figure. made more money as a waitress in 1985.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      Teachers are definitely underpaid. It's time that America raise its standard and pay teachers what they deserve.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      teachers are underpaid, period. they hold the bright futures of our children and deserve more than what is currently on their paycheck. bills, insurance, plus a family to take care with only, maybe, $50,000 a year isn't going to cut it.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      I am a teacher, so maybe I am biased, but... I make $30k, from which I have to pay $300/month for health care (it isn't free for everyone), contribute to my retirement fund (our state's required annuity has resulted in a significant loss every year that I have taught so far), pay for my teaching supplies, pay my living costs, and try to repay my college loans, which amount to more than I earned my entire first year of work. I also have no job security. This tenure that everyone continues to bring up doesn't exist in Indiana. I am also married and would love to start a family, but instead have chosen to pursue my Master's degree (at a cost of $10-15k) so that I can earn an additional $3,000 a year. I didn't pursue teaching to become rich. I did it because I enjoy it. Unfortunately, my decision has destroyed any possibility of achieving the American dream.

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      yes

    • whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

      That is an understatement. Teachers develop our children and perhaps spend more time with them than anyone. It;s really a no brainer, though I get a bit tiffed at subjects like this lol. One o' the 'don't make sense' concepts that we abide with, good thing there are so few ;)

    • anonymous 5 years ago

      They should be paid a little higher than what they have now. Teaching is one of the several profession that needs multi-tasking. Not all can do that....

    • viscri8 6 years ago

      working people are usually underpaid -- teachers too. But then again -- there are teachers and teachers -- and some are more underpaid than others

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Teachers are absolutely underpaid. They carry the future of our culture and our nations and notions.

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      totally the whole economy depends on the next generation so we need to educate these kids but why would the get paid so much for finding a cure but their teachers wont get paid enough when they are teaching them how to do things things. They also teach them the information they need to have a wonderful path to wonderful completions. I SPEAK FOR U TEACHERS WHO R UNDERPAID!!!

    • fantasticallyfi 6 years ago

      Teaching can be a massively rewarding, yet, hugely stressful profession. I'm just not sure that the pay reflects that...

    • anonymous 6 years ago

      Teachers are underpaid in all the countries, they are the foundation and the role models, students look upon. However, less salary means talented people will not take up teaching . There is a need to revise the salaries and the motivation for more people to join this industry.

    • Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

      Totally, I worked in a speacial education facitlity, and wow, our teachers were underpaid, undervalued, and totally dis-respected, no amount of money would have been enough. I think it is a shame that teachers are feeling the way they are, they have the future of our children in their hands!

    • bluesocialmedia 6 years ago

      Teachers should be paid more but be expected to produce better results our education system is in the toilet.

    • Stephen Carr 6 years ago from Corona, CA

      Not so much underpaid, as undervalued and under-appreciated. I'm sure most teachers would rather be valued more as a society than a few extra bucks. But, you cannot deny that as a whole, teachers are a bargain. Many deserve the big bucks!

    • PhiladelphiaWri 6 years ago

      clearly underpaid

    • Wendy Leanne 6 years ago from Texas

      glockr, I appreciate your response. For me the job security would matter little if my husband decided to divorce me because my teacher pay would not be enough to pay my car payment, to pay rent, and to feed my 3 children. If I suddenly found myself single I would have to get a job with my bachelor's degree and put teaching on the back burner. Teaching is a calling. No one looks at teaching upon entering college and says "oh yeah, that salary works for me!" Becoming a teacher is more like an itch that needs to be scratched. It's annoying, and nagging, and you try to go into a more lucrative career, but that need to teach just won't go away. Also, another deciding factor for me becoming a teacher is that it is the only profession that I can have in which it won't require sending my kids to daycare for the summer or between the hours of 3:30 and 6:00. As I teacher my bell rings when theirs does. So I just take them home. Along with all of my grading and lesson planning of course.

    • alesxandrea 6 years ago

      my mom was a math professor in south carolina. she has to get up early for work and go home late at night. she do bring home her work.. Of course she has to. sometimes, she even spends her weekend doing some preparations for her students. checking the papers, making lesson plans and everything else. she has to review everything and study too...

      in the philippines, this is not a question. It is already a fact, a statement. ALL teachers in the philippines are underpaid. One profession that shouldn't be taken for granted because they hold the key to the future of our kids. They deserve a raise!

    • resabi 6 years ago

      Teachers are underpaid. Period. Those who assume that work only has value if the hours worked are designated to be worked really do not understand what teaching is all about or the incredible amount of sheer energy and willpower it requires. I've had "full-time" jobs that paid a good amount of money. Yes, they had responsibilities. But if I needed to operate on a robotic level because I wasn't feeling well or was distracted, I could. Not so with teaching. You are responsible for the future of the world -- sitting there in the classroom with hopeful expressions (if you're lucky) or vacant ones that need awakening (if you're not). And even the most dedicated, motivated, creative teacher comes up against the stupidity of the "No Child Left Behind" ruling that basically sucks all the life and inspiration from the job because kids have to be taught to pass tests. Pressure? Yeah, I'd say that's a lot of pressure. To teach to the test and still find the energy and optimism to go for something more requires tremendous mental fortitude, investment of personal resources ($$$ included), and lots more hours than any school system is going to "officially" pay.

      And bear in mind that if the dedicated, inspired teachers are pushed out of the system by lack of support, then the ones who do stay aren't going to be the ones we want educating our future leaders (and our future teachers...)

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      TEACHERS IN CALIFORNIA DO NOT GET ANY VACATION PAY OR ANY HOLIDAY PAY, NOT ONE DAY! WE ARE PAID FOR THE DAYS WE TEACH, PERIOD! WE TEACH 180 TO 184 DAYS PER YEAR. THOSE ARE THE DAYS FOR WHICH WE ARE PAID. WE DO SPLIT OUR PAYCHECKS INTO 12 INSTEAD OF 9 OR 10. MOST OF US WORK SUMMER SCHOOL, AFTER SCHOOL, ETC. THE EXTRA MONEY WE PUT IN, AND HUNDREDS OF HOURS OF CORRECTING PAPERS, ETC ARE ALSO NOT PAID. YES WE GET GOOD RETIREMENT PAY WITH NO HEALTH COVERAGE, BUT WE HAVE TO PAY 8% OF OUR GROSS INTO THAT RETIREMENT FUND EVERY MONTH, (MANDATORY) AND NO, WE DIN;T GET ANY SOCIAL SECURITY, EVEN THOUGH THE AVERAGE TEACHER IN CALIFORNIA STARTS TEACHING AT AROUND AGE 33, SO ALL OF THE MONEY THAT WAS PAID INTO SOCIAL SECURITY, ETC... GETS US ZERO! RESEARCH BEFORE YOU OPEN YOUR MOUTH TO SPEAK, OR WRITE. WHAT MANY OF YOU ARE SAYING IN ABSOLUTELY NOT TRUE.

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      Sorry Greg & Andrew...I don't agree with you. How in God's name is a teacher able to make $81K as a math teacher? That sounds more like a college professor with a PhD's salary. I was always told that becoming a teacher meant that you HAD to love the job, not the money.

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      YES! I have my Bachelor's in Elementary Education, and I am currently working toward my Master's Degree in Middle School Education. The only way to get paid well in education is to be an administrator! I became frustrated with the pay, my principal, and mean co-workers and quit back in 2004. I work in sales, and HATE IT! I make good money, bonuses, etc., but spend less time with my family. I want to come back to the classroom because I love the children, but I know that there is a possibility that I will become quite frustrated again. This article is true...the only full month that teachers have off is July. I wish I was good in math...I would have become a Pharmacist!

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      I cant believe anyone would want to not pay teachers more!

    • eridqua 7 years ago

      I taught high school for 5 years before taking the last 2 years off to be at home with my baby girl. I worked for the best paying district in Orange County, CA and had great benefits. I enjoyed having holidays and part of summer off. HOWEVER, the stress of being a teacher is so overwhelming. You don't get paid by the hour, and it is very common to put in 10+ hour work days. You have to be at work at 7:30 in the morning, and often don't get home until 5:00 and then have more projects and papers to grade at night.

      Also, consider all of the extracurricular activities teachers have to do on top of the normal work day: department meetings, staff meetings, workshops, supervision duty, attendance at school dances and sporting events, club and leadership advisors, detention or saturday school supervision, before and after school tutoring, lesson planning, etc, etc. While teachers may only work 185 school days, the hours are much more than your typical 8-hour work day.

      I considered going back to teaching this fall so my family could have more income, but every time I think of going back my sleep is plagued with nightmares about it. It really is a tough job.

      So, YES, teachers definitely deserve more pay for what they do!

    • anonymous 7 years ago

      TykeeJames

      This is maddness my mom is a teacher and she believes that something must be done about the graditude the government shows the people that got them there

    • moonstruckmommy1 8 years ago

      My grandmother was a teacher, my mother is, and I will be once the kids are in school, so I have a little experience. Teachers are beyond underpaid. Kobe Bryant will be paid over 21 million dollars next year to play his favorite sport, while teachers in LA Unified start out at less then $50,000. Does that seem reasonable? Anyone know how much it costs to live in California?!?

    • ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      I'm a teacher so you know my vote. Another thing people don't realize...they assume we get holiday pay for all the major holidays. We don't. They schedule our days around the holidays. My contract is for 190 days of work. There is no holiday pay, no paid vacations, and we don't punch a clock. We work until the work is done or drop into bed too tired to continue.

    • julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Well, I'm channeling my hubby now -- he says YES that teaches are way underpaid. You see, many of our friends are teachers at schools and universities; one is a principal. They were heartily agree. Hubby taught science in high school early in his career. He's debating returning to collect on his pension.

    • Debbie 8 years ago from England

      Yes! From what I've seen, it's worse in the States than in the UK. The working conditions are much the same from what you say except participation in sporting events. That would be down to the teacher with a responsibility in that area and they'd get paid extra for it...not a lot, but extra all the same.

    • religions7 8 years ago

      Yes, teachers are underpaid. The system abuses the good nature of teachers in general.

    • anonymous 9 years ago

      oops, should have reread my post, spelling and grammar errors.. oops... principal! etc...

    • anonymous 9 years ago

      Yes, I was a teacher as well and quit due to the cost of daycare and teaching expenses. Our day until 3pm was not the end, we have to research, create lesson plans, grade papers from every subject from the entire class, extra-curr. activities, then a principle to push us to no end. My students received the highest math scores in the state, and were high my other years... what did I get. Not a word. Later, I was told I was teaching it wrong... I didn't use textbooks! Such a joke. This no child left behind, really was a money scam, it only hurt the children and set our country back. All our principal wanted to do was, "teach to the test."

    No way, they make plenty!

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      • anonymous 5 years ago

        With sick days, personal days, mental health days, and holidays, not to mention summer break...yes I think when you look at the actual time spent in the classroom (on the job, in my world), that they are overpaid! I bring work home that I do not get paid for, I have health and insurance costs and the insurance isn't nearly as good, and I pay taxes. It is true that teachers buy their own teaching materials, but just like any other work related expense, it is deductible. Maybe they should do like the rest of us...and stop living beyond their means? As for summer break? I would love having a month for vacation!

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        I would have to say no,their are many professions out there that people have to have a degree in and also pay for their own uniforms and supplies.If you think that your underpaid please choose another profession.For you accepted the job at that pay.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Who gets into a profession without researching pay? My wife is a teacher and has her masters (she stays at home now). It was never about the money. She will eventually go back to teaching and probably won't make much more than someone starting out of college. But...she gets 10 weeks off in the summer, and a couple weeks for xmas and spring break. 10 weeks is nearly 20% of the year. And, she doesn't have to pay for health care insurance which last I checked was $150 per paycheck for me and she had better coverage. All in all, I'd say teachers are fairly compensated.

      • anonymous 6 years ago

        Teacher's are government employees, hence comparing

        salaries to private sector professionals is not equitable. I make a little over fifty-thousand dollars a year, as a teacher, and have really good healthcare benefits at no cost. Yes, I would like a larger salary, but with the shape states and local governments are in financially significant pay increases would add to the burden of those either underemployed or unemployed. However, I would say local governments should look into the disparity of what high-level administrators make compared to teachers. Frankly, at these levels one may say educators may very well be overpaid.

        Do I think I should earn more money? Sure most people do, however, with the state or the economy pay raises of significant amounts are not in the future.

      • glenbrook 6 years ago

        My mom is a retired teacher so I've seen some of the frustrations that come from the job. However, don't people look into what a job pays before deciding on a career? Maybe the pay isn't as good as some private sector jobs, but I'd think that job security would more than make up for that, especially in today's economy.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        Listen to Greg, it's all about supply and demand.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        My brother-in-law has been a math teacher for about 15 years in orange county, ca and made 81k last year, I know, I did his taxes.

        He works 9 months out of the year, 8-9 hours a day which includes a 45 min lunch and a prep period with no class, and sometimes brings home tests and homework to grade. He has free healthcare for him and his family and a pension when he retires. He is also tenured, so he pretty much cannot get fired. Sounds pretty good to me!

        In the real world...

        There are no pensions, healthcare cost 5-6k a year, you do spend at least 9 hours a day at work when you have an hour lunch (because that's 8 hrs of work), and many people making 80k a year have to take work home with them. There is no 3 months vacation, and you don't get every holiday off, including a week of spring break.

        Everybody thinks they are underpaid...I get it. But this idea that teachers are underpaid is just not true anymore.

      • anonymous 7 years ago

        Well, I see on http://www.championnews.net/district.php?did=10118... (IL teacher salary website) that some teachers make well over 80K and a handful 100K. I somehow don't think a teacher making that much is going to spend 20% on materials for the classroom. I doubt that you the author spend over $4,800 in classroom materials your last year. Or was it 20% of after tax income.

        Still what people don't realize is teacher pay in not kept low because one person has some ultimate power. It is supply and demand. If there were less teachers in the workforce then they would make more money because they would be in high demand.

        Teachers work less days in a year than full-time employees. That is a fact. Wether it is 180, 190, 200, or 210. The normal number of work days in a year for a full-time employee is 260 less holidays and vacation. On average that is about 260-8-12=240. Don't start talking about sick days as teachers get sick days too.

        So a teacher works about 80% of the time a normal full-time employee works. I looked at the poor district by me on that IL website and teachers in elementary school with 2 years experience are getting paid 33K in 2008. If you do the math 33K divided by 80% that is 41K. Not a bad salary 2 years into a workforce with a degree that many many people get. That is not even including the amount of money that school district has to set aside for pension. So that teacher making 33K in a poor district in IL is really making about 45-46K when you factor everything in. Remember most companies don't have pensions anymore and if they do most are not backed up by the state.

        The reason I know teachers are not underpaid is that when two openings were posted over the summer in my daughters school they had around 1000 applicants. If it is such a bad underpaying job then why did so many people apply.

        People say teachers are important for the kids. That is true, but you know who is more important? Parents. If parents would take an active role in their children's learning then it would make the teacher's job easier.

      Did You Have an Inspirational Teacher?

      Did you ever have a teacher that inspired you?

      See results

      Reasons Why Teachers Deserve More Pay

      Teachers Inspire

      Teachers Inspire
      Teachers Inspire

      Teachers Work Long Hours

      Teachers Work Long Hours
      Teachers Work Long Hours

      Teachers Care

      Teachers Care
      Teachers Care

      Teachers Prepare Students for the Real World

      Teachers Prepare Students for the Real World
      Teachers Prepare Students for the Real World

      Should a Teacher's Performance Affect their Pay? - Should Good Teachers Get Paid Accordingly?

      Should a teacher's pay be based off of their performance?

      Yes! Pay good teachers well and deduct from poor teachers.

      Yes! Pay good teachers well and deduct from poor teachers.

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        • whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

          I would think some sort of teacher grading system would be beneficial, which would motivate them. To assess a teachers' performance., one factor would be follow up with their past students also.

        • resabi 6 years ago

          I think merit pay has... merit. As long as the criteria based on students passing those idiotic "No Child Left Behind" laws that end up forcing teachers to drill kids in how to pass a test rather than teaching them to think for themselves and to love learning. Show me a teacher who can get a child to want to his best and to light up at learning new things and think for herself, and I say absolutely: pay them more. For those who don't do as well, I say invest in the system and support them and guide them into doing better. Presumably they want to really do their jobs. But mentoring used to be part of the teaching profession and that seems to be disappearing along with the other support.

        • moonstruckmommy1 8 years ago

          This wouldn't bother me, as long as the lowest it goes is what they pay now! lol Seriously, I think it could work based off of student evaluations, principle evaluations, and student progress (key word is progress, not standardized test scores!!) However, teachers should also continue to get raises based on length of "duty" :D

        No! Keep teacher pay progressive where they get paid according to how many years they've put in.

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          • viscri8 6 years ago

            yes

          • anonymous 6 years ago

            Teaching is a tough profession. Only the motivated can perform well and money is a good enough motivator to perform well.

          • ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

            How do you judge their performance? In SC, students take an end of course exam for some classes. It really adds to the stress. We're not suppost be be judged by the results but we are. Its hard to get a 16 year old that's waiting until he's old enough to drop out to take the test seriously. Is that the teacher's fault or the parent's?

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            • whiteskyline lm profile image

              whiteskyline lm 5 years ago

              There are a number of subjects that I feel are more beneficial than traditional education. Part of me wishes I had been taught them, but I also remember the yin yang and how every moment of our lives is filled with utter perfection.

            • viscri8 profile image

              viscri8 6 years ago

              Good teachers can learn a lot from their students.

            • profile image

              anonymous 6 years ago

              Very educative and lessons well learnt. :)

            • fantasticallyfi profile image

              fantasticallyfi 6 years ago

              Fab debate!

            • profile image

              anonymous 6 years ago

              I cannot agree with you more. As teachers are the backbone of the education system, there is a need to keep them motivated and adequately paid. The working hours like any other job stretch beyond 5 pm in the evening.

            • profile image

              anonymous 6 years ago

              I cannot agree with you more. As teachers are the backbone of the education system, there is a need to keep them motivated and adequately paid. The working hours like any other job stretch beyond 5 pm in the evening.

            • LisaAuch1 profile image

              Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

              Oops, nearly forgot, as I worked in education I know the work and commitment teachers give, so I support a wage rise! Blessed by an Angel!

            • LisaAuch1 profile image

              Lisa Auch 6 years ago from Scotland

              What a great inspiration for a Monkey brain! This was fun!

            • profile image

              anonymous 6 years ago

              Very nice lens,enjoyed my visit!

            • PhiladelphiaWri profile image

              PhiladelphiaWri 6 years ago

              great lens, thanks! giving it a thumbs up because teachers do deserve more

            • profile image

              resabi 6 years ago

              Wonderful, thought-provoking (good teacher!) lens. As you can see from my comments above, I got a little involved... Definitely blessed by a SquidAngel.

            • religions7 profile image

              religions7 8 years ago

              Great lens - you've been blessed by a squidoo angel :)

            • moonstruckmommy1 profile image

              moonstruckmommy1 8 years ago

              Lovely lens, hopefully it'll change.... soon!

            • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

              ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

              Great lens. Is a subject dear to my heart. I can get by on what I make because I'm a part of a two income household. Single and new teachers scramble to make ends meet. Teachers that work a second job are not at their best the following morning, but what choice do they have? They need to eat too.

              Great lens

              Lizzy

            • debnet profile image

              Debbie 8 years ago from England

              Super lens and hopefully it'll make the general public realsie that a teachers job isn't as easy as it's commonly thought. 5*

            • religions7 profile image

              religions7 8 years ago

              Great lens. *****