Teachers are NOT the Problem, They are Part of the Solution
We are losing qualified teachers at a staggering rate. But, to be clear, teachers should never be blamed for the teacher turnover problems our country is facing. The shortage of teachers in America and the decrease in college students seeking a teaching career is a multifaceted and complex problem.
In this podcast series, we discuss exactly what got us to this crisis point in the U.S. education system. Click the links below to be directed to that part of the series. We recommend listening in order.
Part 6: Toxic school cultures produce lots of talking and meetings with little to no effective action being taken (coming soon!)
Part 7: Poor knowledge of reading instruction methods in the elementary grades and little to no remedial knowledge at the secondary level (coming soon!)
Part 8: Inequitable teaching practices, grading practices, and student behavioral policies (coming soon!)
In this series, Trina, along with myself, and many other educators from diverse backgrounds will explain the many layers of what is really going on. The shortage of special education teachers and math teachers is impacting schools (especially in low-income urban areas) tremendously. But, it’s important for teachers to understand the extent of this crisis. We are losing teachers in all subject areas.
We want to give teachers an extensive look at this problem from teachers’ perspectives. This is so teachers listening can share this series with other teachers, school leadership, the media, and even the governor of their state. The need to examine the causes of the national teacher shortage has never been more important.
About the Real Teachers Discussing The Teacher Shortage Crisis:
Trina is a Bay Area public teacher, who has worked in multiple school districts and public schools. She has extensive experience in leading social justice-based reforms in education. She has implemented innovative programs, received recognition for her efforts, and is deeply involved in advocacy work related to gender equity. She earned her undergraduate degree in Anthropology from UC Berkeley, and her masters in Educational Leadership from Cal State East Bay. She is a staunch advocate for Title IX implementation and completed a multi-district confidential study on the lack of implementation of Title IX in Bay Area schools. She is a vocal critic of the exclusionary equity work in K-12 education and has devised and led multiple equity-based pilot projects in her present and prior districts. She has prior experience running a domestic violence shelter and rape crisis hotline, and training domestic violence advocates on trauma response, crisis intervention, and harm reduction safety planning strategies. She has advised numerous feminist student unions over the years, and collaborated with Women’s March Oakland to organize her feminist student union’s involvement in the march—the first ever public school to do so. Read more about her in the blog entry entitled, “Out of the Darkness”.
Kelvin is a recently resigned high school English teacher based in the Bay Area. Prior to teaching, he had experience working as a college consultant, where he helped hundreds of students stay on track to graduate, brainstorm and edit college essays, and guided them through the dizzying college application process. Afterward, he pursued a teaching credential and eventually taught English at the public high school level. Despite his love of teaching and the wonderful relationships he built with his students, he experienced a high level of burnout and made the difficult decision to leave the teaching profession in search of other opportunities. He earned a B.A. in English from UC Berkeley and a Master’s degree in Education from Stanford University.
Amanda has been a passionate full-time classroom teacher for 14 years. But, she’s also left the profession twice due to burnout and unforeseen family circumstances. She’s worked in a wide range of educational settings teaching students grades 3rd-8th. For the 2023-2024 school year she will be teaching 9th grade! No matter what type of school or grade she’s taught, engaging and empowering students has always been at the forefront of her work as an educator and teacher-author. Amanda understands that helping students find their voice is core to being an effective teacher and social justice advocate. Amanda shares insights about implementing equitable teaching practices on this website and podcast. She has her bachelor’s degree in English literature and Middle-Level Humanities.
The Teacher Shortage Crisis: A Holistic Conversation
Many teachers listening to this series may wonder, why discuss the teacher shortage with teachers? What can teachers even do about the shortage crisis happening in America?
The reality is that teachers have a very important role to play in all of this, which we will explain throughout this podcast series.
There are many non-educators writing about the teacher shortage and getting the story wrong, or having an incomplete picture of the problems. These articles from reputable news sources like The New York Times and ABC News discuss student behavior, lack of administrative support, teacher mental health, and low pay as causes of the problem. Very few articles are written from an insider’s perspective, from a teacher’s perspective.
Teachers deserve to understand the full picture of what is occurring within our school systems and how they can become part of the solution. Listen to this whole series to learn how.
Throughout the series, we emphasize the need for a holistic conversation that includes teachers and other stakeholders. We delve into the concept of structural racism and sexism that is baked into the American education system. We explain how these mechanisms are often subconscious and tied to a history of racism and sexism, which have been ingrained in our institutions from the start.
We believe that looking at the teacher shortage crisis holistically, rather than targeting or blaming one group of people (teachers themselves, administrators, or school districts), is humanizing and incredibly valuable. If we are to fix these problems, we absolutely must be open to looking at the entire picture.
The Origins of Public Education in the United States
In part 1 of this podcast series, Trina provides a brief history lesson on the development of free public schools in the United States. She highlights the role of Horace Mann, the father of modern education in the US, who sought to establish a public education system that would provide education for all. He called this a “universal education”.
The goal was to ensure America preserved its new democracy by educating all its citizens so they would be informed, engaged voters. However, Mann’s vision did not include African American people, as his ideas predated the Civil War. Before this, in the 1600s and 1700s America adopted the British model of education which was only accessible to wealthy boys and men via tutoring and private schools. The teachers of this model were highly learned white men.
Horace Mann realized that in order for his vision of universal education to work, he needed many more new teachers to meet the needs of the incoming student population. He needed to tap into a group of citizens who had the availability to teach and didn’t need to be compensated highly for their work.
Married white women.
During this time period in history, it was thought that this group of citizens was supported by male breadwinners and therefore didn’t really need money.
As time passed the demands of teachers increased and so did the requirements for becoming a teacher (more on this in episode #2).
Although demands and requirements have increased throughout history, compensation for the work teachers do continues to be abysmal.
Listed below, you’ll see all the requirements for becoming a teacher.
The Path to Becoming a Tenured Teacher
In order to become a tenured teacher, one must accomplish the following:
- Pay for and obtain a four-year degree from an accredited institution (cost ~$40,000-80,000)
- Pay for and complete a teaching training program to receive a teacher credential (cost ~$10,000-40,000)
- Pay for, take, and pass multiple state exams (cost ~$500-$1,000)
- Complete a 6-month or more full-time student teaching practicum without pay (cost unknown)
- Pay for additional coursework to move up the pay scale (cost ~$5,000-10,000)
- Complete a new teacher training program that includes lots of formal lesson planning, observations, and critical feedback, while teaching full-time, (cost ~$500)
- Continue to take coursework to earn higher pay (cost ~$5,000+)
Total Time Commitment: 6-10 years
Total Cost: ~$100,000+ to become a tenured teacher
Faced with all of these facts it is completely understandable that there is a sharp increase in teacher vacancies in schools across our entire country. Prospective teachers choose other professions after fully understanding the high cost of choosing teaching as a career. The enormous amount of time and money it takes to become a tenured teacher (who mostly likely only earns about $65,000-$80,000 per year) is completely absurd!
In recent years, fewer and fewer college students are choosing teaching as a career and the teacher vacancies in schools (especially low-income urban schools) continue to increase. We must lower the time commitments and costs of becoming a teacher and drastically increase the salary of first-year teachers if we are to attract more college students to this critical profession. In episode #2 of this series, we will dive even more deeply into the incredible burden students must take on in order to enter this profession.
The Step and Column Pay Structure
The majority of public school teachers in the United States are paid based on a step-and-column pay structure. Here is an example from Oakland Unified School District in the Bay Area.
As you can see, in order to get baseline pay raises, a teacher must accumulate years of service and continue shelling out money to universities to obtain credits during non-working hours.
They also must continue working for the same school/district to accumulate years of service. The step-and-column pay system requires teachers to work and continue taking college classes for many years before reaching a livable salary.
In addition, teachers lose years of service if they decide to switch school districts. Many districts only accept up to 5 years of service, even though a teacher may have 10 years of experience. The challenge increases when a teacher attempts to move out of state. Many states have testing and credentialing requirements that mandate shelling out hundreds and even thousands of dollars to fulfill.
According to salary.com, the average salary of new teachers in the state of California is $47,267 per year. According to an article on CNBC, a single individual with no children would need to make about $87,000 per year to live in San Franciso.
This would take a new teacher upwards of a decade to earn what they need to live comfortably in San Francisco/Oakland area.
Why There is a Lack of Diverse Representation in Education
There is a very serious lack of representation in the teaching profession, particularly for teachers of color.
During the 2020-2021 school year, 77% of public school teachers were female and 80% were white according to The National Center for Education Statistics.
This history lesson about the beginnings of public education in America detailed above, uncovers where these modern-day statistics originated.
Over a century after universal public education was created, utilizing white married women to supply the work pool is still standard practice today.
It’s also vital to understand that the lack of access to generational wealth and the burden of lifting their families out of poverty makes it difficult for individuals from marginalized communities to pursue a career in teaching. The financial burden of becoming a teacher is just too great.
The Disparity in Pay and Per Pupil Spending Ratios
Schools get their money from state and local taxes. The money is given to schools and districts to spend as they see fit. This money is used to fund teacher salaries, offer health care options (at extremely high premiums), school maintenance, curriculum, and more.
The amount of money each state spends can be calculated using per-pupil spending ratios. This value is called per-pupil spending.
Per-pupil spending ratios are calculated by dividing the amount of money a state spends by the number of students attending public schools in that state.
You can view the public information about how much money your state is spending using this link.
The Disparity Cost of Living Adjustments
Most people know that it is extremely expensive to live in states like California or New York. California ranks 4th in cost of living, New York ranks 5th. Despite being the 4th highest cost of living state,
California ranks 19th in per-pupil spending. New York ranks #1.
This is just wrong. California should be ranked near New York, not Minnesota, which ranks 31st in cost of living.
The impact of the cost of living in high-income urban areas and the lack of cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for teachers causes prospective teachers to turn away from pursuing a career in education.
Teachers in these areas struggle to make ends meet and are also burdened with incredibly high healthcare premiums. Some teachers have to shell out thousands of dollars a month just to have basic health care.
Proposed Solutions and a Call to Action
So, how do we fix the problem of inequitable teacher salaries? How do we give our students the gift of seeing a beautiful and diverse representation reflected in their teachers? How do we make this profession enticing to prospective teachers? How do we keep current effective teachers in this profession?
First of all, we desperately need college students interested in teaching as a profession and new teachers to be compensated fully and fairly.
We propose that doing away with the step and column salary schedules and drastically increasing per-pupil spending (especially in states with large urban populations with a high cost of living) are the solutions.
In order to do this, legislators must take the issue to the voters. Teachers can take this issue to their unions, legislators, and governors.
Sharing this podcast episode and blog article with stakeholders in your school or district can begin to raise awareness of the need for fair and equitable teacher pay.
Every student deserves to receive a quality education. Student learning and morale are severely impacted when our classrooms become a revolving door of burned-out teachers or substitute teachers. When students continue to experience schools in this way, their education is being stolen from them and in turn our democracy hangs in the balance.
Our democracy was founded on the idea that its citizens must be educated. It’s citizens must be knowledge seekers, critical thinkers, and use their education to uphold their civic duty to become aware of problems and vote for solutions. By taking the time to read extensively about the teacher shortage crisis, you are upholding your civic duty to acquire knowledge and think critically. Now, it’s time to share this information with other citizens, propose solutions, and vote to make change happen!
Stay tuned for our next episode where we will continue this important conversation. Together, we can make a difference.
Podcast Time Stamps
The Teacher Shortage Crisis [00:01:18]
Explanation of why the podcast is covering the teacher shortage crisis and its impact on students and society.
Introduction to Trina English [00:02:46]
Background information on Trina English, her experience as a teacher, and her work in promoting social justice in education.
The history of our profession [00:14:32]
Trina explains the origins of the education system in the 1700s and how it was established in the 1800s.
The structural sexist pay system [00:15:56]
Trina discusses how the pay system in teaching reflects structural sexism and the reasons behind it.
The step and column salary schedule [00:21:25]
Trina and Amanda talk about the step and column salary schedule and its impact on teachers’ income and career progression.
The emotional impact of the teacher shortage crisis [00:25:45]
Discussion on the emotional toll of the teacher shortage crisis and the gratitude felt for being in the profession.
The need for a radical change in teacher salary structure [00:26:25]
Exploration of the need to discard the current salary schedule and start at a full salary from the beginning to attract and retain high-quality teachers.
The impact of lack of representation and access to generational wealth [00:28:09]
Discussion on how the lack of representation in the teaching profession and limited access to generational wealth perpetuates structural sexism and racism.
The per pupil spending ratios [00:39:11]
Discussion on how each state’s allocation of money per student affects school budgets and the ranking of California’s spending.
The misalignment of spending and values [00:40:20]
Exploration of the disconnect between what people in California say they value and what they are willing to do in terms of funding education.
The need for statewide action [00:44:53]
Call for legislative action and raising awareness among voters to address the issue of low per-pupil spending in California.
Amanda (00:00:00) – This podcast has evolved over the years because times have changed and so have I. If you pressed play on this episode, I’m guessing you are passionate about the same topics that this podcast has begun to delve into. I’m talking about equity, social justice, neurodiversity, mindfulness, and student engagement. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of the movement for change in our schools. I’ve come to realize over the years that enacting change in schools requires we find other like-minded teachers at our school sites. And if you feel alone in this work at your school site, then in the online space and through podcasts like this one, I’ve been a lone wolf for a long time, doing my own rebel thing in my own classroom, on my website, and on this podcast. But three years ago I met a fierce, passionate rebel teacher doing things differently in her classroom, too. We developed a close bond and friendship through a common interest in promoting social justice at our school. This teacher is Trina English.
Amanda (00:01:18) – She’s our special guest and co-host for a series of episodes that delve deeply into the teacher shortage crisis. But why would I choose to publish a series of episodes about the teacher shortage crisis? Why would teachers need to delve into this topic? The reason is because this crisis is prevalent and seriously impacting students and most especially students in low income and urban areas. But let me be clear. This is not just impacting students. It’s impacting everyone because our very ability to effectively self governance hinges on us being able to fix this problem so that we can produce literate, thoughtful, empowered citizens. Our entire education system is in crisis because of this teacher shortage. But teachers are not to blame for this. But they are part of the solution. Teachers deserve to know what is really going on here from other teachers who have an insider perspective. This series of about seven episodes will blow your mind and open your eyes to the truth of the matter. But before I get into this conversation with Trina, let me first tell you about this badass teacher.
Amanda (00:02:46) – Trina received her undergraduate degree in anthropology from UC Berkeley and her master’s degree in educational leadership from Cal State East Bay, with a strong focus in equity leadership. She has been a teacher for ten years in a wide variety of school settings and has designed and implemented unique pilot projects designed to address deeply entrenched social justice-related problems in education, including a reading intervention program at the secondary level, which was based out of Oakland Kids First Fellowship Award, which involved a collaboration with parents and local volunteers. She has also designed and implemented a groundbreaking, highly collaborative program at her current site entitled The Diversity Equity and Inclusion Advisory Council, which utilizes an intersectional civic engagement framework to elevate student voice and agency, for which she was also awarded special recognition by her local school board and superintendent. She is a fierce advocate for trauma, informed and culturally responsive behavioral and pedagogical practices and believes that reparation-type reform is necessary to begin to address the deeply systemic social justice problems found within our profession. She has been in union leadership during a teacher strike, has worked in educational settings with students from a wide array of backgrounds who have experienced layered and nuanced forms of oppression within the school system and society at large.
Amanda (00:04:29) – She is the founder of School Staff Against Sexual Violence, an organization she started that grew out of her master’s thesis work, which brings together teacher leaders and community members throughout the Bay Area and Nation, which raises awareness of the problem of gender equity issues and school-based sexual harassment and violence. She also leads an affinity space, a group that I am a member of, which is for female-identifying gender equity warrior. Professionals throughout the Bay Area. She’s also advised multiple feminist student unions, has collaborated with Women’s March organizers and has implemented Girl Up, a framework created by the United Nations to address worldwide gender equity issues for girls. She has also successfully advocated for the adoption of a nonsexist dress code and period equity. In a previous life, she ran a domestic violence shelter and county rape crisis and emergency response hotline and conducted grassroots organizing to raise awareness of gender-based violence in her community. She is also the mother of a child with special needs who is awesome and teaches her how to be a better teacher and person every day.
Amanda (00:05:50) – Welcome to the Empower Students Now! Podcast, a podcast about equity, neurodiversity, mindfulness and student engagement. There’s a lot that needs to change in our education system. The good news is teachers have the power to make these changes now. Welcome, Trina. I’m so excited to learn from you today. Thank you for coming on the podcast as my very, very first guest ever. So my first question to you is why do we need to have a conversation with teachers and other stakeholders about the teacher shortage? I mean, I think the.
Trina (00:06:36) – Main reason, Amanda, is because you hear pieces of the conversation, but it’s never explained as a whole holistic issue. And the stakes are just so very high and so much is on the line. And I think for your podcast, you have a teacher listenership. And I think for teachers to hear someone really authentically, accurately and completely explain why no one wants to come into our profession anymore is very humanizing because it’s extremely demoralizing to hear people out in the media get it wrong.
Trina (00:07:14) – Right. But then also, this message needs to be carried through to the larger society because our democracy is hanging in the balance, our very ability to navigate the rocky waters ahead. You know, whatever your political stripes may be, no one can disagree with the fact that we need a literate, well-educated group of children to guide this country into the next phase. There’s just a lot on the line.
Amanda (00:07:41) – And so I totally agree. And so today we’re and we’re breaking this huge topic of of teachers leaving the profession and just. Going to other professions. I mean, we are two teachers on the brink of that as well. I love being a teacher. It is not just a job to me. It is. It is so it’s such a such an important profession. And I know you feel the same. And so to leave these children who need us and and as a passionate teacher who cares deeply about equity in education, but we broke this this topic up into multiple episodes about the teacher shortage.
Amanda (00:08:29) – And I’ve learned so much from you and you you have you’ve helped me outline all of these episodes and you wanted to talk about teacher pay first, and that’s what this episode is all about. So why are we talking about teacher pay first? And can you just give us a little bit of of background, maybe? And you were talking about kind of the history of teacher pay because you were teaching me all about this a few weeks ago, and I was just blown away about how little I really knew about why teacher pay is structured the way that it is and kind of how it applies to the teacher shortage. I mean, I think a lot of people assume like say, Oh yeah, teachers don’t get paid enough. Some people say that. Other people say, Oh, you have the summers off. That’s why you don’t get paid enough. But there’s so much more to this than teachers even realize. So could you kind of start us off talking about this topic of teacher pay and how we got to where we are today?
Trina (00:09:33) – Totally. You know, like so many things in education, Amanda, the teaching profession is esoteric in that it is a very small, insular world. And the things that are done in education in our profession are not don’t exist outside of our profession. And there are things that we take for granted. There are things that are pressing us in our ability to provide for our families and make our profession really unattractive to well-educated young people. And we take it for granted that this system, the pay system we have, is the only system available to us. And it’s not. There are professions in the public and private sector that have considered our pay structure system to save money, and they’ve discarded it because of the talent shortage problem, you know, nationwide right now. But before I talk about this, I also want to say, like you and I both acknowledge that although we’re very smart, well educated, we don’t know everything, Right? So the problem is not all that well researched. And we may say things that you don’t agree with.
Trina (00:10:38) – So we want to hear from you. If you have critical feedback or you just have blows about what we’re saying, please do not forget to provide that feedback to Amanda and on her website, because I definitely want to grow my knowledge, and I know you’re going to think of things that I have not and I value your experience. So as teachers, I just want to start I want to start with that, of course.
Amanda (00:11:01) – Yes. Yes. And there are so many teachers listening right now who have their own perspectives and worldviews and experiences that we’re not aware of. And and that, I think, is part of being really deeply caring about social justice in our society and our schools. Part of that is being open to criticism and being open to other points of view. So thank you for for for that. And this is I’m pretty nervous right now. I’ve never actually had a guest come on and I’ve never interviewed anyone before, so I’ll do my best to ask good questions. But yeah, again, if anyone has more questions, you can always visit Amanda right now and go to this episode and you can comment on the episode.
Amanda (00:11:48) – And then also Trina has a website and it’s a wonderful, wonderful website. As dot org where you can also contact her if you have any questions because she would love to hear from you as well. Yes. Okay. Moving towards like the first theme of oppression when it comes to teacher pay, can you tell us about the first theme or am I jumping ahead? Do you want to say anything else? No.
Trina (00:12:15) – I mean, we can we can move on. So we’ve heard of structural racism, and that’s a huge problem in our entire society and is very evident in our profession. And we’re definitely going to be touching upon that throughout all of these podcast episodes in this series. But to start with, I want to talk about a phrase maybe others haven’t heard of, which is structural sexism. And it’s at the heart of why our profession is not attractive to new talent and why people might leave because of income inequality issues. And I think maybe we need to back up just a second. When we talk about structural forms of oppression, these terms get thrown around a lot, and we don’t always know what they mean or we think we know what they mean.
Trina (00:13:06) – And then we use them in ways that confuse others. So when I think of the term structural racism or structural sexism I’m talking about. Very, very specific mechanisms that have been baked in to institutions that really reflect our very biased, bigoted attitudes and ideas and perceptions about these people at some point in the past. So there are some very racist ideas that we have and had that are reflected in the very pragmatic way in which students and teachers experience the educational system today. They we don’t even think about them. They’re very subconscious and we don’t often really understand the extent to which they are tied to a very racist history. So in the teacher pay system is a very old structural way in which it was it was set up that reflects very sexist ideas. And I’m going to go into some detail to explain why our pay system has structural sexism. But I also want to put a pin in the idea that we’re going to be coming back to structural racism throughout the podcast series. So to begin with, we need a brief history lesson of our profession.
Trina (00:14:32) – In the 1700s, early 1800s, education for children in our country was really relegated to the extremely wealthy, right? So there were these highly learned dudes running around our country with advanced degrees and humanities, serving as private tutors for the elite class in our country. And that’s a model that we borrowed from Europe, right? So it was not an education was a significant privilege back in those days. And this dude, Horace Mann, a great guy who decided, you know what, it’s not okay that we have only provided education for just a small group of people who can afford a very expensive private tutor. I’m going to develop a K-12 public education system in this country to provide literacy, mathematics and history lessons for everyone. And just a little bit about who Horace Mann was. You know, he was a revolutionary thinker that really was the father of modern education in the United States. And he had extremely important progressive ideas. I’m not really critical, of course, man, although he did implement this structural sexist pay system because he did so many other important things for us.
Trina (00:15:56) – He was a staunch abolitionist, though his ideas around early childhood education were pre emancipation. So the system that he came up with to move education out of just the elite wealthy classes and make it more egalitarian didn’t affect the lives of African American people. They were not a part of the system that he did envision them being included in because his ideas predated even the Civil War. Right. But he did envision a classroom that had multiple classes and the social hierarchy all sort of cohabitating together, all receiving a free and secular public education. And it’s a really, really good idea. And it’s a noble idea. There’s a lot of schools named for this guy today. He made no secret of the fact that he was going to be utilizing an underutilized class of people workforce in our society, women. To bring up and staff these teaching positions because he knew there was no way to pay a man to do it, and he knew that he could pay them a small fraction. I think he even said a third of what a man who was similarly trained and educated would earn to be able to bankroll and fund this whole system.
Trina (00:17:26) – And the idea there is that because women marry men and are not sole breadwinners, that it seemed fair, it seemed doable because a woman is not going to be providing for a family, you know, on her own without a man’s income in tandem with her own right. So that is like where our profession came from. There was no secret of this. It wasn’t even considered sexist at the time that women who could earn a third of the salaries as men would be able to staff all these positions. And to this day, we still have this idea that teachers are signing on to make not enough money to provide for their families, and we all sort of accept that. So I just wanted to stop there and ask you what comes up for you When I talk about just like the history of our profession and how it was established in the 1800s.
Amanda (00:18:22) – A Little House on the Prairie. Laura. Laura Ingalls That’s what comes up for me. I’ve read all those books to Aria and she loved them and just her being basically forced when she was, I don’t know, 13 or something.
Amanda (00:18:39) – She was so young into a schoolhouse and she, you know, she didn’t want to teach and but she had to. It was her duty. And so, yeah, I mean, that’s the first thing that I think about are those books. And when were those books written? Like in the 1800s, Late 1800s? I can’t.
Trina (00:19:01) – Recall. I think so. Yeah, I think so. But, you know, at the time, these young ladies were not being asked to get advanced degrees. They certainly were not being asked to go into masters programs, post graduate programs to take even more exams and take on huge amounts of student debt. Right. It was a job that you got from finishing a certain number of years in K 12. I mean, at that time it wasn’t even through 12th grade. Right? And a test you passed a test to prove you knew your content area, something akin to like a C set today. Right. For those of us in the state of California, that’s a test to prove, you know, your content area enough to teach it.
Trina (00:19:44) – And then they and then they were ready to go. Right. And it was a place for, you know, intelligent young women to have guaranteed employment. It was a really important stepping stone for for a lot of women to enter the professional workforce. And at the time, you know, it made a lot of sense. The problem is, though, as we have piled on the requirements for teachers, the pay structure doesn’t make sense with the amount of education that was required of us. And it still doesn’t today. Right? Like if you look at other public jobs that require the amount of education that we are required to have, and that’s going to be for another episode, right, Amanda, where we talk about teacher preparatory programs, because I don’t think that people understand how much we have to do, especially in California, but the amount of debt that you have to take on to get all your credentialing requirements and education done does not make sense with the amount of pay that you’re given, Right? So even if you don’t work in the summer, though, I don’t know any teacher who is able to do that.
Trina (00:20:52) – Like, I certainly do work over the summer and I know you do too. But you know, even if you don’t, you still don’t earn enough money to even make to pay back those loans. Right? So in an effort to reform our salary issues, step in column was introduced. And so I’m going to ask you, Amanda, can you explain what Stefan column is to people who aren’t teachers? Because it’s a really bizarre and oppressive pay salary schedule, I’m sure.
Amanda (00:21:25) – I feel like I’m being interviewed. So so there’s a table and down the first column is the number of years, right? The number of years you’re you’ve been in the profession. And then the first row is the number of credits, right. That you you’ve acquired. And I think that’s it. Right. And then and then you go as you acquire more and more years and more and more schooling and more and more credits, you get paid more and more and more. But I think I mean, I think the max or something is like one 20,000 in California in a high paying district, which that’s, you know, the Bay Area.
Amanda (00:22:14) – And that’s not enough, right? Especially if you’re single, a single teacher and that’s your only income and you’re not married. And so married teachers, you know, who have someone else who’s making money to contributing have a privilege over single teachers. If. Yeah.
Trina (00:22:33) – Yeah. Absolutely. Absolutely. To this day, like something like 70% of the people in our profession are female. Um, and, you know, the profession is able to skate by on that fact of that. Oh, a lot of us are married to men who make higher incomes, but that is not the case. Like if you have two, like in my situation, you know, I’m married to a teacher, neither one of us, and he has like 23, 24 years in the profession even makes the bottom threshold for middle class income. Right. But the step in column means it takes you at least 20 to 25 years to earn your full salary. Yeah. Yeah, it is ridiculous. And we take it for granted as teachers that we have to be extremely impoverished in the beginning of our career and that, of course, it’s going to take us, you know, 25 years to earn our full salary.
Trina (00:23:30) – I mean, you’re beginning salary is much less than even half of your full salary. And that’s what I want for teachers to know. And here, like, yeah, step in college means you get a raise every year, though it’s not a call. A raise, right? It’s not a cost of living raise. But your full salary is what everyone else and all the other professions get to start with. And we have to begin at less than half of a full salary and show years of service and continue to get more education that we have to pay for. Yeah, right. There’s there’s no loans out there. People think, oh, if you have a teacher, if you’re a teacher, you can get free education. No, I have $60,000 of debt for my multiple subject credential and now for my administrative services credential and master’s and educational leadership. You have to keep working out money to move up that salary schedule. So yeah, every year you teach, you move up a little further in the salary, but also you have to continue to go out there and be in school.
Trina (00:24:34) – So it takes it can take your entire career to get all the units that you need to get your full salary. So everyone says you’re off for the summer. We’re in school in the summer trying to increase our salary schedule to be able to provide for our families. And there are other professions that have toyed around with this step and column schedule and it has been discarded. There is just no reason why a very intelligent, self-possessed, well-educated young person would want to start a job earning a fraction of a full salary, knowing it’s going to take you 20 years and 50 more units of education to earn it. It just doesn’t make sense.
Amanda (00:25:19) – Yeah. So what can we do? Do you? I mean, do you have ideas about. About what? What we can do to solve these problems? I mean, teachers are listening right now, and we’re we’re we’re recording this series so that they can have more of an in-depth look at what’s going on, you know, and maybe it might be eye opening.
Amanda (00:25:45) – I know I’m getting goosebumps listening to you because even a teacher, you know, I’ve been in a classroom for 14 years and I feel like because teachers are so caring and loving and just have such big hearts and I’ve always felt grateful to be in this profession, you know, And and it’s sad because when you really I’m I’m getting kind of emotional, you know, when you think about it and the way that you’re describing it, it’s not right.
Trina (00:26:17) – No. You know, if you’re talking about first of all, I love your tender heart. You know, tender heart, you know.
Amanda (00:26:25) – Yeah.
Trina (00:26:25) – Like if we fighting for these issues, like, for example, getting rid of stuff and column like, it just I know it sounds like revolutionary like, oh my gosh. What? And teacher unions fight really, really hard to raise those salary schedules, but they don’t fight to get rid of them in the first place. Like, if we’re going to keep if we’re going to keep young teachers in the profession.
Trina (00:26:51) – Right. And we’re going to attract new high quality teachers to our profession, they need to earn a full salary from the beginning. So it would be really radical, but, you know, completely discarding it and starting out at the top level, at least for years of service. Right. And then if you want to keep adding more raises towards a more complete salary, an annual salary for units, fine. Provided those units are paid for because we don’t earn enough money to go back to school. We carry a lot of debt, which is why we’re talking about these themes of oppression in the salary schedule. We talked about structural sexism and this really antiquated idea that women who teach don’t need a full salary because they’re married to men who can supplement their incomes. Like that’s a really racist, sexist, elitist perspective, right? So like we look at the lack of representation in our profession and we say, why aren’t we attracting more teachers of color? Right. Well, white families have more access to generational wealth and you really need a pretty nice cushion of generational wealth to become a teacher and stay in the profession.
Trina (00:28:09) – You need access to white, wealthy man who’s earning white, wealthy man income and you need access to the resources to not carry on a ton of debt. And in order to float this right, this whole system relies on white privilege and actually male privilege. Because the idea that men are out there supporting these female teachers is is inherent in the teacher pay structure to people of color. Don’t have generational wealth, not on not like we do. And it’s it’s you know, a representative of the deep structural sexism racism in our country that they don’t have access to that wealth. But if you have you get out of college and you might be first generation graduate in your family and you have this burden on you of like helping to lift out not just yourself, but your entire family out of generational poverty. You’re not going to want to be a teacher. You have to take on even more debt, a ton more debt to get your credential, and then get your master’s degree so that you can have enough units to earn a full income.
Trina (00:29:15) – And then you’ve got to work 25 years to make not even middle class wages. Right? Like you mentioned, $120,000 a year. It may sound like a lot if you live somewhere else outside the Bay Area, but the bottom threshold for middle class lifestyle, bottom middle class life in the Bay Area is 150,000. So you.
Amanda (00:29:36) – Don’t get to 120 until you’re all the way down that column and all the way across those rows you have to get.
Trina (00:29:42) – Right? That’s right. So we are never going to attract people who come from, you know, our racist history, who don’t have access to generational wealth, and they go to college. They’re not going to want to become a teacher. They have this huge added burden that you and I don’t to lift their entire families out of poverty. So we have we’re never going to fully address the lack of representation. And you and I both know that not having enough teachers of color in our profession has broad sweeping impacts in the quality of everything that we do, from curriculum to behavioral intervention.
Trina (00:30:19) – We just don’t have the people we need. We don’t have the diversity we need because our starting salary is just not attractive, you know, whatsoever. And the other thing going on is we have the problem of lack of differential pay for cost of living in high income urban areas. That is an income inequality issue. And we have concentrated poverty in urban areas that disproportionately affect students of color. And the cost of living in these areas is so prohibitive that teachers cannot ever get out of their the debt they’ve acquired to become teachers if they remain teaching in these areas. Right? Like you get more bang for your buck as a teacher if you live someplace someplace else outside of an urban area. But then since since the recession, we also have the problem of no cola raises, right? So, yes, we have the step in column, which means you don’t earn your full salary until you have the equivalent of a master’s degree. And you’ve been working over 20 years in our profession. But then each step and each column, every placement on the salary schedule is supposed to be raised automatically for cost of living increases.
Trina (00:31:36) – One of the austerity measures of the Great Recession in 2007 2008 was they did away with those. They stopped giving us regular cola raises. And, you know, teachers are really living right at the boundaries of meaningful being able to meaningfully provide to their families. So not keeping up with Cola means that we’ve been effectively getting paid plots every year. And you know, we recently got a rather significant up in our Cola, but that wasn’t even in keeping with the recent cost of living. And because of inflation over the past two years, we would need significant 3,035% raises at every stage of the salary schedule to catch up for the lack of colas we have not gotten since 2007. So that’s another reason why the real income that teachers have been earning at every spot on the salary schedule has not been stagnating since the Great Recession.
Amanda (00:32:35) – Wow. Wow. And I know like when you get a raise, everyone’s so grateful for, you know, 5%. What was it this year? I can’t remember. In our district, it seemed big.
Amanda (00:32:48) – But when you talk about it like that, no, it’s not big at all. No.
Trina (00:32:55) – No. And then, of course, there’s another issue, too, which is our health care plans. So over the past 15 years, the costs that we’ve been carrying for our healthcare plans have tripled. Right? So right now it’s something like I think it’s like 28, $2,900 a month for just the premiums for my husband, myself and our son are a family of three. Whereas I mean, I think people assume that teachers don’t have to pay these exorbitant health care premiums, but they have radically, radically gone up in price since about 2005. Right. And different districts have, over time, negotiated with their teacher unions and with their health care HMOs that they contract with have to have the teachers pay the entire share of the premium costs. So even if you do make that $120,000 a year income because you have a full-on master’s degree and 25 years of experience and you’re still not making a middle class salary, you’re paying $30,000 a year in health care premiums.
Trina (00:34:13) – So, I mean, that’s just what it costs.
Amanda (00:34:16) – Yeah. This is so eye-opening, Trina and I just. I’m so grateful to you and just. Just sharing this here. And I really want to just send this to Gavin Newsom. Like, No, we talked about that, right? Like, yeah.
Trina (00:34:32) – We don’t think we mentioned that, right. So Gavin Newsom’s the governor of our state of California and, you know, have whatever political opinion you have and you know, you are allowed to have whatever opinion of him you want. I personally am okay with this guy. But he he’s trying to figure out why we have such a horrible teacher shortage problem in California. And it’s a nationwide problem. But he’s literally asking the CDC to give him a report on what’s going on. The CTC. Amanda, can you tell your listeners what the CTC is.
Amanda (00:35:09) – The California Teaching Credentialing.
Trina (00:35:11) – Commission.
Amanda (00:35:12) – Commission, Yes.
Trina (00:35:13) – Yeah. Non governmental, quasi-public. Who knows what? Big Brother, the grand Overlord which oppresses all teachers and makes things incredibly difficult as you move through your teacher preparation programs.
Trina (00:35:29) – And they’re just money grabbing so many tests and things that ways that they pay for their own bloated bureaucracy. To ask them why we have a teacher shortage problem is just the most ironic thing ever. They’re part they’re a big part of the problem and we will talk about that in our in a future episode when we talk about how teacher preparatory programs are really predatory, honestly, and they really do prey on low-income families to get you into the teaching profession right away so that you have to work full time, go to school full time and pay for extremely expensive graduate level work that’s tailored to a working adult. But the CTC is responsible for a lot of that oppression.
Amanda (00:36:14) – Well, I just paid my to renew my license. Right. And it was, I don’t even know, $120 or something. And I was just like, why do I have to pay this every, what, three years? Well, we will talk about.
Trina (00:36:28) – Yeah, we’ll talk about that because it didn’t used to be that way.
Trina (00:36:31) – There are teachers in the profession, really old baby boomers that have lifetime credentials.
Amanda (00:36:38) – So we need to change the step and column system of paying teachers. What else can be done about it? This oppressive way that teachers are paid.
Trina (00:36:52) – You know, I learned something extremely valuable, um, about teacher pay and really about how districts are funded. Really. While I was in union leadership during a teacher strike. And I’m not critical of teacher unions at all. I am so grateful for teacher unions. They protect the professional integrity of not just our profession as best they can, but also like the integrity of the education our kids are receiving. Um, so I am extremely grateful to them. However, when I was in union leadership, there were a number of really amazing labor unions that showed solidarity to my own and would come down to speak to us, to rally us up and to really like come back to this idea of fighting against management. And I get that rhetoric. I really do. Like I am true blue pro-labor, however, that model of thinking about district office leadership as management doesn’t really work.
Trina (00:37:59) – You know, even the top tier people in leadership, Tony Thurmond, for example, the California Department of Ed Leader for us, or even like our superintendents who are very highly paid. Okay. The difference between what they make and what we make is insane. But they all started out as teachers. Right? And this is a public sector of occupation. This is not a private corporation or management. Right. Like these these decisions about how much money are leas our local education agencies have and to a large degree, like how much money we make. This is a political wills situation. This represents the extent to which the voting population in a state values us as teachers, or the extent to which what they say they think about us and what they’re actually willing to do for us are misaligned. And in the case with California, and I would argue, like most states actually in the country, there’s a big disconnect between what people in our state say they value and what they’re actually willing to do for us.
Trina (00:39:11) – And I want to draw attention to something known as the per pupil spending ratios, right? Like each state is allocated a certain amount of money per year for each student enrolled in their schools. And to huge extent like a school’s budget is really tied to that number. And I’m going to, you know, just say, like you and I both looked at the data, but you would imagine that like states that of like progressive or even Democrat leanings, would allocate more money per pupil. Right. The big issue here is there’s a lot of states that are paying about the same and a few states that are paying quite a bit more. And you would think, you know, in California we have so many resources. You know, if California was its own country, it would be the sixth largest economy in the world, far and away the most wealthy state. Uh, where would you guess we would fall in the rankings from, like, 1 to 50? We should be first, right? We should be.
Trina (00:40:20) – Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I think we should be. I mean, that would be like, sort of in keeping with our values, Our stated values. Like what? You know, Gavin Newsom, our governor, is trying to do with partnering with the devil to get to get the information to Ktrk about why we don’t want to work in our schools anymore, why we why teachers are leaving the state of California. And, you know, it’s not just the cost of living here. We aren’t even in the top ten. And you and I looked at this really interesting scatterplot chart and, you know, you and I are both veteran teachers and we know how people need to see information for it to have a big impact. Right? Like we’re patterned thinkers. We know that our students benefit from seeing information presented in a variety of formats. Right? So I mean, seeing the table of what each state is spending per pupil in order ranked in order shows you immediately that like New York, is far and away the number one spender per pupil.
Trina (00:41:22) – Right? Sure. Then followed by DC, Connecticut, New Jersey and, you know, Alaska, a red state. See, so it’s not entirely true that the Democrats leaning, progressive leaning states are in the top because it’s not true. Right. California, the county in which we live, Alameda County is the most progressive, consistently progressive voting district in the entire country. And we are we are from a state that isn’t even in the top ten. So that’s like really useful information to see. But if you look at it on a scatterplot, right, you and I have both taught elementary mathematics before we taught Scatterplots. You can really see that amongst the top 5 or 6 spending states. And we’ve actually linked in what we think is a good resource on a scatterplot chart to see really how each state is spending per pupil. Really those top four states New Jersey, Connecticut, DC and New York are in a completely different sphere of reality of what they’re spending versus kind of the remaining states, right? The reality of the situation is that California is 19th in per pupil spending and these numbers are not adjusted for cost of living.
Trina (00:42:40) – So when you consider how expensive it is to live and do business in California, that number is even lower still. They are not California is not that far removed from the from the next like ten states down, everything from California. If you look at the scatterplot chart that we’ve linked here for you all the way down to Missouri, there’s like another ten, 12 states there that are all spending about the same amount of money. So these these are fixed amounts of income revenue for the school districts. Yes. There’s some money that is, you know, gained from different grants and different other streams of revenue. But this is really the primary way that school districts get their money. And so one of the things that I was saying to my union leadership when I was on strike and they were asking for, you know, everything they ask for was fair and everything they were asking for made sense. But I was saying to them like, where do we have this money? Because we had gotten good information that the money had been sort of misappropriated and mean.
Trina (00:43:44) – I believe that to be true. But if the money was gone, then it’s gone. So do they have the means, right, to secure the funding that we’re asking for with this strike? And the answer was just yes. Yes, yes, yes. The deal here is that, yeah, districts make mistakes with the spending. Sure, they have a lot of discretionary power over how these monies get allocated. And so, yes, teacher unions should pressure school district leadership to be better with the way that they’re allocating that money. And when we talk about county curriculum, that’s a really, really an outside contractor. These are really good ways that you can curtail your spending. But if we’re really going to address how much money school districts have, it’s going to require statewide. Actions to raise the consciousness of your voting population, to let your voters know how misaligned or poor people’s spending ratios are, and with what our stated values are like, I don’t think anybody in this state would understand that we’re pretty much spending per pupil what Missouri is spending.
Trina (00:44:53) – I mean, that’s just like totally ludicrous. We have so much more money. The cost of living here is so much greater. We should be number one. And that is like, what is it? California is currently spending $12,498 a year per pupil, which is the same as Nebraska. I mean, give me a break, right? New York is $24,000 a year per pupil. Our cost of living is similar to New York, if not more. We should be paying something along the lines of that. So if you want to do another, find another way to resolve the teacher shortage. Gavin Newsom in the state of California takes this issue to the voters. Our legislators need to fix this. They need to write legislation, raise the consciousness of our voting population and address this problem. And it isn’t really a political problem, even though the voters need to address it.
Amanda (00:45:49) – Okay. So just to wrap up the three critical themes of oppression when it comes to teacher pay are structural sexism, lack of racial diversity in our profession, and income inequality, when it comes to like our step-and-column system of pay.
Amanda (00:46:08) – Is there anything, any last words that you want to say as we wrap up this episode about teacher pay and how it’s related to teachers? The teacher shortage?
Trina (00:46:18) – I just want teachers who are listening this to to begin to second guess what you’ve always accepted as standard in your pay. There are no other professions. There are no other professions that institute this kind of bizarre, structured pay system that takes decades to earn your full salary. Like imagine. Just imagine for a minute if you’ve been teaching for 10-20 years, if you started off receiving a 20-year veteran salary from year one, where would you be with your the health of your economic portfolio? Would you be in a better position to pay for your child’s college? Would you be in a better position to buy a home in this ridiculous market? Would you be in a better position to take care of your aging parents? The answer is yes. There is no reason why we cannot start at a full salary from year one. Think of the amazing talent that we could recruit into our profession that would benefit our children for decades to come.
Trina (00:47:20) – It doesn’t have to be this way. It does not.
Amanda (00:47:24) – Share this episode with someone you think needs to hear it or even share it with Gavin Newsom. Yeah, well, your governor of your state or your superintendent. That’s why we’re recording this. And I just am so grateful to you, Trina. Thank you for coming. And I can’t wait for our next episode about teacher preparation programs and how they are impacting the teacher shortage as well.