Teaching Losing Popularity as Pay Drops

Teacher salary reaching new lows, resulting in less educators


Marching in Richmond to spark conversation about the lack of funding in education and low teacher salaries, teachers from across the state attended the event on Feb. 29.

Carly Herbert, Editor-in-Chief

As more and more students find their way into public schools across the country, fewer teachers are standing in the classrooms to greet them.

According to the Department of Education, there’s a teacher shortage. Not just in Virginia, where nearly all teaching fields are lacking necessary personnel, but across the country. The truth is this: teaching, which some would say is one of the most important professions, is becoming less and less popular amongst the college students choosing their majors.

Although the profession used to be a common and popular choice amongst college students choosing majors, that isn’t the case anymore.

Over the past 40 years, the share of female college students majoring in education has shrunk from 32 percent to 11 percent. Overall, education majors are becoming more and more rare because instead of pursuing careers that are intrinsically rewarding, they are following more stable sources of income. Which is understandable seeing how the annual salary for teachers has been dropping for years. Who wants to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for an education that won’t pay them enough to cover their student loan debts, much less any debt, and the cost of living?

Teachers are earning almost two percent less than they did in 1999 and five percent less than their 2009 pay, according to the Department of Education. Less money means fewer teachers, as they want to be properly compensated for the important work they are doing.

The cost of living in Fauquier County far surpasses the income for teachers in the county and the same can be said for the surrounding counties of Prince William and Fairfax. Expensive lifestyles and low paying careers don’t mix, meaning that our school systems struggle to find willing teachers. With that being said, amongst the three, Fauquier County is the bottom of the barrel in terms of teacher pay. Because of this, it isn’t unusual for our county to lose teachers to higher pay in the surrounding counties, despite many of them having a high cost of living and more expensive houses. Superintendent Dr. David Jeck said he has plans to increase teacher pay in the coming years in order to try and keep teachers in the county.

The number of teachers leaving the profession entirely, for other fields, has grown for each of the past three years, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Many teachers cannot afford to stay in the profession, they have families to support and bills to pay and the work they do in the classroom doesn’t support that.

Even those teachers that aren’t turning away from the field, many are forced into picking up second or third jobs in order to pay bills and support their families. By doing that they are challenged with balancing the task of planning coursework and content while maintaining other jobs after school.

For students, they face the challenge of finding passionate teachers to help them learn and grow. The teachers that stand in front of them are often those who have other incomes in their households or can manage a low salary. Often times, those with a passion for teaching and who would bring the most worthwhile experience to a classroom, are driven away by the lack of money in the field.

Although there has been an increase in talk about the problem of teacher salary, there also needs to be an increase in action. Major attention to the issue has motivated some to take their concerns to the next level and contact those in positions of power.