Disclaimer: I don’t live in West Virginia.
So if you’re like me, when you first heard about the teacher strike in West Virginia you might have thought “Why should I care?”. You should care, however, because the teacher strike in West Virginia goes beyond the state borders and affects all of us in America. Underpaid teachers are not only found in West Virginia, but across America.
In West Virginia, teachers are striking in all 55 counties until lawmakers give them 5% raise and a promise for health insurance contributions to stay constant. Although striking is illegal in West Virginia, the state cannot afford to fire them because they have a shortage of teachers. It’s no wonder that West Virginia has a significant teacher shortage since their pay ranked 48th in the nation in 2016.
The situation in West Virginia hit home when the teacher I have been shadowing told me how teaching is more like volunteering with the added benefit of pay. She even left teaching for a time in order to work in the corporate world so she could support her family. So nobody goes into teaching for money, but shouldn’t we at least pay our teachers a living wage?
According to an Education Next poll from August 2017, roughly 6 out of 10 Americans believe teacher pay should increase. In 2017, an OECD study found that
“American teachers earn on average only up to 60% than other professionals with similar education levels, the lowest relative earnings across all OECD countries.” Washington Post
This is disappointing considering that we want to pay enough to attract really good people to become teachers and remain in teaching rather than having to bail out for a more profitable career. As a future teacher, I have been questioned and told that I should rethink my decision to become a teacher because I won’t make much. So it’s easy to imagine how many potential teachers, who would care for their students, have been dissuaded and made the decision to forego teaching in favor of a more lucrative career.
As a current student, seeing how little we value our teachers also makes me wonder how much we actually value our education. So unless we invest in our teachers, we are basically showing that we don’t value and believe in investing in the future of education and the future of children. This is why I stand with the teachers striking in West Virginia. Will you stand with them too?