Teacher pay is notoriously low, especially given the basket of vital things they are asked to do, and teacher shortages are growing. Richard Swerdlow has this Perspective.
Once at a party, I told someone I was a teacher, and he mentioned he always wanted to be a teacher. “Why didn't you?” I asked. He said he wanted to make decent money, so he became a dentist.
He wasn't wrong. My first year salary as a public school teacher, 28 years ago, was $25,000. Even then, not great for a job requiring four years of college and two years of graduate school. That dentist did hurt a bit - his job required four years of college plus four years of dental school. The average dentist in California earns around 10 times my starting salary.
My early years as a teacher, I was shocked by the poverty of my co-workers. The teacher in the classroom next to mine, with five kids of his own, went fishing at 4 am, selling fish to help support his family. One teacher worked nights as a bartender, another worked a grocery store shift. Full-time teachers juggling second jobs, trying to make ends meet as baristas, waiters, or shop clerks.
The news has been filled lately with stories of a dire teacher shortage. Last year, almost 14,000 California teachers retired. And even with new teachers being certified, the state needs 6,000 more teachers to staff schools. California isn’t alone - 48 states reported teacher shortages this school year.