We talk about their success stories, the kids who text them from college, invite them to their weddings, grow up and become teachers themselves. We talk about their heartbreaks, the kids who for one reason or another don’t make it, who drop out, who disappear. We talk about their frustrations, the kids with behavior issues, the bureaucracy, the testing. Here’s what we never talk about: money.
I’ve spent the last three months talking to teachers across Los Angeles about their jobs. They’ve met with me as they swilled coffee getting ready for an early-morning class, as they spooned up a lunch of peanut butter from a jar while helping a kid study for an exam, as they sipped coffee re-heated in the microwave late in the day over papers they were grading. Not one teacher has ever complained to me about making too little money, which is astonishing especially because, as we all know, teachers do not make anywhere near enough.
The median national salary for a teacher is $52,270, which puts them below almost anyone else with a post-college professional degree: lawyers, doctors, college professors, psychologists, computer systems analysts, nurses, speech pathologists, pharmacists, loan officers and dental hygienists. There are people with a job called “compliance officers” who, whatever frightening thing they do, are making more than teachers.