Going for broke

America’s fiscal mistreatment persists


Molly Murch, In-Depth Editor

The goal? The American Dream. The steps to get there? Work hard and persevere through tough times. A foolproof plan? Not in the slightest. Each new generation is taught that the resources found in America will allow them to prosper if only they take advantage of them. Among those who are most committed are the nation’s teachers. The truth, however, is that even with dedication beyond measure, this “dream” is unattainable for most.
In September 2018 TIME magazine published a nationwide report on teachers and their salaries. The investigation revealed the striking adversity teachers face as they foster the future, as well as their families.

Jacob Fertig, a teacher from West Virginia, has often felt the burden of eroded education funds.
“I still spend about $1,000 to $2,000 on my students. It’s not just the pay, not just the benefits. It’s a total lack of respect,” Fertig said.

This lack of resources proves not only det-rimental to the classroom, but to the prosperity of the teachers themselves. Los Angeles teacher Rosa Jimenez has 12 years of experience, but having to sacrifice her already limited payroll has begun to take a toll on her family.
“My 10-year-old and I share a bed. People talk about college and I have no idea how we’re going to do that. I don’t have $300 at the end of the month to put in a savings account. That’s just not happening,” Jimenez said.
These teachers barely make more than minimum wage and most often fall back onto other income sources. Even with years of experience and graduate degrees, many must work extra hours earning minimum wage.
Hope Brown, a Kentucky teacher with 16 years of experience and a master’s degree, has been a victim of an inadequate salary, prompting her to make ends meet however possible.

“I go in at 5 a.m. and I get off at 4 p.m. I work an extra job multiple nights a week, making $9 an hour. I also started leading historical tours in the summer,” Brown said.

This issue does not just present itself in niche areas; it can be found just around the corner. MN Math teacher Emily Hovdenes found herself working a second job a few years ago in an attempt to improve her lifestyle.
“I was a dance teacher. I would work Saturdays and a couple times during the week. It was a struggle balancing everything so I eased back this year, but it’s something that a lot of teachers do to make their lives enjoyable and livable,” Hovdenes said.

It is a crisis. In fact, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reports that schools spent more per student prior to the Great Recession than they have the past few years.

The effects of these discrepancies are wide-spread. According to The New York Times, 46%of teachers quit within five years, making the number of teachers to students disproportional, which can push classes as high as 40. These replacements cost America $7 billion annually, depleting funds and propagating the cycle.

If America truly values teachers, progress will be made. After all, America’s children are in their hands. If teachers are left in the shadows, our children will suffer, and that is when we know we have undoubtedly failed.