By Haley Palmer and Leah Ellis
*Editor’s note: For additional coverage of teacher salaries, please read today’s issue of the Bagpiper.
Chemistry teacher Michelle Harbison gestures to the test tube and explains to students how to capture the gas released in their experiment. While she is concentrated on helping her students, there is a bigger concern running through her mind: the teacher salary.For some time, educators have been contemplating the structure of the teacher salary. Many teachers are concerned with certain aspects of the current system, but there are also positive conditions that come conjointly, according to NAFC Education Association president Joy Lohmeyer.
“We created a career path with the current model that still gives teachers some type of incentive to add to their masters degree of masters plus 30 because they get additional units of merit on our scale,” said Lohmeyer.
Despite the beneficial effect that Lohmeyer described, chemistry teacher Michelle Harbison said that she feels that currently, one has to have a very high level of education to have an adequate salary.
“It’s getting to the point where you have to have all these fancy degrees to even come close to making a decent salary. In order for me to get a raise, they would have to decide across the board to give everyone a raise,” said Harbison.
Social studies teacher Suzanne Moss said that due to the budget pressure, annual step increases for teachers have been halted.
“Well, because of budget constraints, we haven’t been able to give teachers yearly steps for their pay. We had to put a hold on teachers getting step increases, which has put people at a deficit, and as you can imagine, it’s not exactly making people happy. Teachers would like to remedy people being frozen on steps,” said Moss.
Harbison explained how she feels that teachers are not accurately compensated for their time and efforts.
“FC has been lucky to have individuals that believe in public education, and who are donating their time. It’s unfair. Why are not that valuable?” said Harbison. “We don’t feel valued, and when you don’t feel valued it’s demoralizing. After awhile, it becomes a struggle.”
Math teacher Chris Street touched on the importance of the teacher salary being competitive.
“Traditionally, NAFC has been competitive with benefits and wages. The danger is other teachers switching corporations for higher. With education being more competitive, maintaining employees is more important than ever,” said Street.
According to IU Dean of Education Gerardo Gonzalez, one way to potentially improve the salary is by having the state recognize the importance of teachers and to act accordingly.
“I think the states have to determine that teacher pay is a priority. Occupation is very important in economic development. It is very important to all of the professions. Teachers are essential to our society and the state really needs to understand that they must invest in public education especially since that’s the kind of education that teaches most students. Also, so that we can attract the best and the brightest into teaching,” said Gonzalez.