Paying Our Educators: Teachers, students consider what goes into teacher salaries and how they reflect respect, education quality


Laasya Mamidipalli

TEACHING TIME: Math teacher Peter Beck teaches his multivariable malculus class at the end of the day. He explained a problem to a student at the end of class to help them better understand the concept.

Kassandra Darnell

Junior Alison “Ali” Moss loves working with children and has considered pursuing a job in teaching. However, Moss said that despite wanting to become a teacher, the lower salary that comes with that career is concerning.

“Wages are always a thing to think about in the future, but I’d rather do a job I love and get paid less than do a job I hate just to get more money,” Moss said. “But I do think it’s an issue that teachers get paid so little because they do so much for everyone in society and they deserve more than what they get.”

According to the National Education Association, the average Indiana teacher makes $54,308 per year, while the national average is $59,660. While, in the state and in Carmel there’s a large range of salaries that help create that average, according to a report from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) teachers still earn 18.7 percent less than other comparable jobs. Even if that number includes teacher benefits, the gap is still 11.1 percent, according to the EPI.

Moss said teachers do deserve higher pay because of their impact on society.

“I think we should find some solution to give teachers more because they do so much,” Moss said. “There’s such a big population of teachers, which I think makes it really hard to try and find a solution because you can’t just raise the pay for some. I definitely think it’s tricky.”

One concern is that Indiana ranks among the lowest states for teacher recruitment and retention, according to a 2016 report from the Learning Policy Institute. To combat that problem, earlier this month, Gov. Eric Holcomb proposed a 2 percent increase in public school funding per year, but not all of that money would go toward teacher pay.

Social studies teacher James Ziegler said historically, it can be difficult to fund public schools.

“I think we can always find money to fund our schools; it’s just asking if the political will is there,” he said. “Part of that element of getting more funding for schools is cutting the influence of money in politics and special interest groups that often times pool funds in other areas and other parts of the budget at a local, state, and federal level. I think you can find the money, not just through increasing taxes, but also reallocating our priorities as a government at a local, state, and national level.”

Math teacher Peter Beck said he agreed and that there isn’t enough focus on schools within politics.

“I don’t see a current solution to (low wages). I wish I did. I know with the different politics there are different approaches on how to solve this,” Beck said. “I don’t feel like any approach being taken in politics is one-size-fits all. It really has to be done on an independent, individual basis.”

Ziegler said teacher salaries can also affect quality of education because some teachers may need to pick up second jobs in order to cover their living costs, which could cut into their time to grade papers and create lesson plans. The issue of living costs continuing to inflate also can make it difficult for teachers to cover their common living costs because teacher wages are not inflating with those costs, something that concerns Moss as well.

“Costs of living are definitely something that concerns me about the future because rent and prices and general are inflating and not everyone’s wages are inflating with that,” Moss said. “It would be difficult if I had a family and didn’t have a significant other that would be making enough. I just want my family to be able to live comfortably.”

Beck, who has to support a family of 11 including himself, said the lower salary that comes with being a teacher can make it difficult to support his family’s needs. However, both Beck and Ziegler said the Carmel Clay Schools District makes an effort to work with teachers to ensure they’re properly paid.

“(A teacher’s contract) definitely incorporates discussions over salary, pay increases, stuff like that, but they also look at healthcare premiums, whether or not they can negotiate whether they can keep those level,” Ziegler said. “They’re also taking a look at the overall length of teacher work day. It’s a whole list of things that the school board does with our union to kind of negotiate a proper contract for teachers. It’s through that contract that we’re ultimately paid.”

Despite the lower wages that come with teaching, Moss said she doesn’t  want to go into teaching because of the money, but because she loves working with kids.

“I’ve always loved kids and love working with kids. I even have a high school job working with kids. I think teachers are so important in society and I think it’d be cool to be known for giving knowledge to people,”  Moss said. “I feel like it’s so much more important to be happy than to be rich.”