Earlier this year, a wave of protests erupted all across Jefferson County Public Schools in response to the administration’s proposal to freeze teachers’ salaries. Teachers and students, myself included, stood in solidarity to express their frustrations with the devaluation of the tireless efforts of our educators. But this isn’t just happening in my district. Teachers and students from schools all across the country ― Detroit, Chicago, Boston ― are protesting as educators become victims and salary cuts become a national epidemic.
And these angry responses are justified. Frankly, it’s a slap in the face. Not only to the millions of teachers across the country unappreciated for educating my generation but to us ― the students. We’re insulted our school systems don’t value the efforts of those dedicating our lives to our education. We’re insulted our school systems refuse to invest quality instruction. We’re insulted our school systems don’t value our futures.
There is no expense more worthy of the federal budget than the salaries of public educators. While we watch funds for salaries being rerouted to smart technology or building improvements or even the salaries of administration, our school systems fail to realize the single best way to invest in the future of students is to provide for our teachers. I don’t see the administrators of my school system on a daily basis. I rarely use the frivolous expenses purchased by my school. But I do work every day with the men and women that make sure every student in their classrooms understand the content given to them. If we want to incentivize quality teachers to retain their positions in public education and continue to put in effort to teach my generation, we must provide them with proper pay.
These salary cuts are not only detrimental to the education of my generation, they affect the future of education as well. Teaching in this country is not a lucrative profession. As a straight A student, I’m constantly reminded my best option would be to enter a medical or legal field. When students of similar academic standards aspire to join the teaching profession, they are told they are “wasting their potential.” Entering a teaching profession is incredibly stigmatized, despite the fact teachers are critical to our nation’s future. So while the brightest students are entering more esteemed professions, those educating our nation’s youth are usually second and third tier students. Reducing teacher pay further diminishes the dignity of the teaching profession, and will only perpetuate the practice of encouraging intelligent students to enter other lines of work for generations to come.
Good educators do far more than simply teach content ― they encourage students to think about the world more critically and instill their passion for their subjects into the minds of my generation. I wouldn’t enjoy English as much as I do now without the tireless efforts of my eighth-grade language arts teacher, who was somehow able to make a classroom full of clueless teenagers thoroughly understand and fall in love with Shakespeare. These teachers make an impact; these teachers deserve higher pay. To our school systems: you can give us outdated technology, you can leave us with textbooks from the last decade, but please, respect our teachers.