I Teach Therefore I Am... Poor

I recently came across a craigslist ad that was filed under “education/teaching” and had the title “Part-time Help”. I opened the link and the full ad read, “Teachers make the best servers. Now hiring for part-time waitstaff…”

Our skillful educators are being targeted for unskilled labor jobs. It should not really come as a surprise considering all the cuts to public education made by the NC legislature this session, and I immediately felt outraged. The North Carolina education changes include ending tenure, removing restrictions on class size, eliminating several teaching and teaching assistant jobs, and ending a 10% pay increase for teachers with Master’s degrees. Ten years ago, North Carolina ranked 29th in teacher salary. The projection for the upcoming year will rank North Carolina’s teacher pay at 48th in the nation. It saddens me to live in a society where teachers are expected to have low-incomes and the idea of a supplemental job is commonplace.

A sign from one of the many teachers who rallied in Raleigh for Moral Monday expressing frustration over low pay and continued cuts.

Sadly, teachers are not the only ones feeling financial pressure. Educated professionals across the board are suffering economically. In May 2012, Huffington Post reported onthe triple increase in the number of PhD’s who received food stamps between 2007 and 2010. It seems the face of poverty is looking more and more educated. Degrees can now symbolize immense amounts of debt and unemployment instead of a ticket to wealth or even a steady job. Previous generations believed a high school diploma was a ticket to employment. My peers and I grew up believing that an undergraduate degree guaranteed a good job which later changed to a Master’s degree guaranteeing a job. Now, even a PhD’s is not enough to keep you off food stamps.

Looking forward, our state and our students face serious challenges. When we treat teachers poorly, students suffer. Our children will get their education within a public school system that devalues teachers and is underfunded which is a scary thought. If our children learn that there is no advantage to seeking education, then we are breeding hopelessness in them. After all, why bother with academics if it won’t even get you a decent paying job?

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