Teacher salaries are so low that they work multiple jobs

This story is published as part of Teen Vogue’s 2022 Economic Security Project Scholarship.

“I knew teachers weren’t paid that much,” says Destiny Hannick, a 23-year-old student in the College of Education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL). “I mean, everyone knows this – everyone knows that teachers don’t come into the profession because of the salary.”

“It’s not something you would do for the money or for many other benefits,” says Reagan Elkhashab, 20, also a student at UMSL College of Education. “It’s a passion, and I think they take advantage of it — people love it. They are so passionate about helping kids and teaching kids that they know they can get away with paying [educators] less.”

“Before, I didn’t care as much because I tend to be an idealist,” says Emily Eden, a 24-year-old student at UMSL’s College of Education. teen vogue by telephone. “I had heard about being ‘overworked and underpaid’ and I was like, ‘Oh, yeah, but it’ll be fine because we’re doing this because we love kids. I totally bought into it. Then I experienced it, and I was like, ‘Holy shit.’

As these comments suggest, it is generally taken for granted that teachers earn little and make a lot. Like all Americans, teachers also face debt, rising rent prices, inflation concerns and fears of recession. For teachers across the country, the cost-of-living challenges that are making headlines today seem to have exacerbated already existing problems with compensation.

The student debt crisis is also having a significant impact on those tasked with educating future generations of students. Indeed, 45% of educators across the country have taken out loans to pay for their education, with more than half still facing an average balance of $58,700, according to a 2021 report from the National Education Association. (NEA) on educators with student debt. For black educators with an outstanding balance, nearly one in five owe more than $100,000 in student loans, according to that same report.

Hannick, who is earning her degree in early childhood education and currently has about $6,000 in student debt, says she knows many other students and teachers with higher debt burdens.

According to Elkhashab, “My mother has been teaching for over 20 years. She just paid off her student loans a few years ago.”

“As a teacher in Missouri, we’re supposed to have a bachelor’s degree to get hired, and then you have to get your master’s degree at some point,” Elkhashab adds. “So it’s six years of study for a not very high starting salary.”

Hannick, Eden and Elkhashab’s home state of Missouri was in the spotlight earlier this year when an updated NEA report on educator compensation ranked the state 50th. for the average starting salary for teachers at $33,234, just $739 more than the lowest-ranked state of Montana. For Montana’s share, the state legislature last year passed the TEACH Act, which provided conditional funding in hopes of raising the starting salary to $34,720 in participating districts.

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