Why do teachers earn so little in America?

For the same reasons that Firefighters and Police get underpaid. Teachers are the one that educate the children of today to grow up and be more productive and is a very important job. That same as Firefighters and Police. They do a life threatening job but get paid very little in comparison to (just one example) actors who get paid a lot of money to play pretend or dress up, Honestly, of those positions, which is doing more good for the citizens of our country? Someone who wears costumes and plays pretend roles, or the people who risk there lives everyday to protect other people at the possible expense of their own lives or someone like a teacher who is training today’s youth how to improve the world? The world would go on without actors or musicians, but be in dire straights if teachers, Police or Firefighter/Paramedics weren’t there to save people. And as far as “that is just the way they get paid” is no excuse to not change the way Teachers, Firefighters and Police officers get paid. They are true heroes and get paid a barely sustainable wage.

Former Firefighter/Paramedic

Can you define low?

I have 3 teachers in my family, all with various education levels. The lowest makes about $30/hour, the highest almost $50/hour. Is that considered low?

Here is where the rub comes in, most are contracted to a 7hr day, 180 days per year. So that means if we take the mid point of $40 and multiply it by 7 you get $280/day. $280 x 180 = $50,000/year. If you are at $30/hr that = $37,000/year and at $50/hr that = $63,000/year.

For a regular 40 hour work week, that is 8 hours/day. Many people think $15/hr is a good wage. That is $120/day. Now instead of working 180 days, you work 260 days for a total of $31,200/year………

Now if that $40/hour teacher worked a “normal” 40 hour work week it would look like this. $40 x 8 hours = $320/day. $320/day x 260 days = $83,200.

My wife has multiple degrees and is on the higher end of that pay scale. She makes around $55,000/year. Last year I made approximately $90,000 so she made about 60% of what I did. She worked approximately 1,260 hours, 7hr/day x 180 days. Depend on which job I am doing, make an average of about $30/hour. I worked approximately 3000 hours, or 2.3x as many hours as she did. She works 35hr/week 9 months out of the year. I work an average of 58hr/week all year around. If you want an equal comparison, she works an average of 24hr/week all year. Now had we been getting the same pay rate means I would have made $126,000/year.

Who really makes less all depends on how you do the math. She took home 60% of what I did, but I had to work 2.3 times longer to do that……….

No profession listed


Because Americans keep voting to keep our taxes lower, even when these lower tax rates keep reducing the budget available for public schools.

I’ve seen a city vote against a .5% sales tax increase, when they were told that not passing it would result in the school year being cut short.

They voted against the tax, the school year was cut short, and parents screamed because many had to take time off work to watch the children who were out of school two weeks earlier than expected.

Probably nearly all the parents voted in favor of that tax increase (maybe not) but enough people voted against it, that it failed.

School teachers are appreciated in the U.S., but the average person has come to believe the rhetoric that claims more money will not improve schools, that pouring more money into schools is a losing battle.

Meanwhile, our schools and teachers suffer.

Mental health professional and writer

We don’t and we do, it’s all about location. I teach in Pennsylvania, a state with a strong tax base and a history of strong teachers’ unions. After 15 years at the same district, I’m earning around 60K/year. I also have great health care, an excellent pension plan, and, the thing everyone likes to yell at me for, summers off. I just did a quick Google search, and Mississippi’s average salary is around 40K/year. It just depends on where you are and, more importantly, if you have a union.

One weird thing about teaching salaries is that most of us are based on a contract that has a salary scale. In other words, what you earn is only dependent on how many years you’ve been teaching, and your level of education. You can work really hard or just do the bare minimum, what you earn does not change. Fortunately, I’ve found that most of us in the profession have a natural dedication to do the best job that we can every day, so we don’t think too much about the yo-yo down the hall that only passes out worksheets and reads the paper all day.


It’s because what we do is actually quite simple. We find out what it is that kids need to learn, and do our best to help them learn it. That’s it. It takes skill, training and knowledge, but that it essentially what we do.

In reality, it’s a lot tougher than it sounds, but on the face of it it, everybody thinks that they could do it, and many of them think that they could do it better.

What we do is also hugely important, so governments are all over education, bringing in new approaches and ideas that do little other than justify their positions. We end up so hog tied by all the rules and regulations, that much of what made us good teachers in the first place is lost, and we become little more than the medium through which the government delivers its ill considered education programmes.

Now considering that everyone thinks that they can do our job anyway, none of this wins us much respect or appreciation.

Minister of Stuff at Education

Do we? I had a student write an argumentative paper in this topic. I teach Resource so I help with homework. The paper wasn’t for one of my classes. So I played devil’s advocate and told him both sides of the argument to give him points to research.

On the point we are not underpaid, I actually would make a pretty good salary if I got what other professionals did inmthis country; 52 weeks of paid with paid vacations and holidays. See as a teacher I don’t qualify for this because I only work 180 days a year. So we broke down my pay into hourly pay. I actually get “paid” $40 an hour. Not too bad. The problem is teaching requires way more time than can be done in a school day. It is Mother’s Day and I will spend part of it lesson planning and creating materials. And is it my fault we don’t go to school year around. But I knew I wouldn’t work year around when I chose the profession. It is so hard since this is far from a black and white issue. There are so many variables. And then there are states and districts that pay way less than others. I could go on and on. So in my opinion, I am not underpaid, but yes I would like to get paid better and not have at least a few paid holidays if not at least one week of vacation.

M.S. Instructioal Design & Special Education

In the United States, professions lost ground as they became female dominated. This is true of secretaries, nurses, and teachers.

Hence, sexism is a major cause here.

Additionally, we don’t value children like we should. We undervalue and underpay all the people in the childcare industry.

It’s about values. The highest paid public employee in many states is a college athletic coach. Americans love their sports. We spend money on what we value.


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